Iran suspends high-level uranium enrichment under international deal

(JTA) — Iran has suspended high-level uranium enrichment as part of an interim nuclear deal signed with the world powers.

Iranian authorities halted the enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, Iranian state television reported Monday.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he hoped the implementation of the first phase of the joint action plan signed with the P5+1 world powers — the United States, Germany, Russia, England, France and China — would mean “a positive outcome for the country and would bring further peace and stability to the region and the world,” Islamic Republic News Agency, Iran’s official news agency, reported Monday.

The United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, confirmed that the centrifuges at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility had been taken off line, according to The Associated Press.

Under the plan first agreed to in November, Iran will freeze most of its nuclear enrichment capability, including not installing or starting up additional centrifuges or using next-generation centrifuges.

In return, the world powers will provide Iran with some economic sanctions relief. Iran also will allow new and more frequent inspections of its nuclear sites.

Under the deal, Iran will continue to enrich uranium up to 5 percent.

The interim deal will last for six months as Iran and the world powers work to negotiate a final deal.

U.S. State Department spokewoman Jen Psaki said in a briefing Monday that the United States and the European Union will begin implementing the limited sanctions relief.

“Iran has begun to take concrete and verifiable steps to halt its nuclear program,” Psaki said. “These actions today are significant steps in our efforts to achieve a diplomatic solution to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

“The coming negotiation to reach a comprehensive agreement that addresses all of the international community’s concerns will be even more complex, and we go into it clear-eyed about the difficulties ahead. But today’s events have made clear that we have an unprecedented opportunity to see if we can resolve this most pressing national security concern peacefully. “

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