EU extends freeze on Iran sanctions ahead of pending removal
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EU extends freeze on Iran sanctions ahead of pending removal

(JTA) — The European Union extended a freeze on sanctions against Iran, clearing the way for the removal of the economic penalties if Tehran is found to be complying with a deal on its nuclear activity.

The European Council “extended until 28 January 2016 the suspension of certain E.U. restrictive measures against Iran specified in the Joint Plan of Action of November 2013,” the Union’s foreign affairs service said in a statement Thursday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, is expected to announce its findings on Iran’s compliance with the terms of that plan Friday, AFP reported on Thursday.

“As soon as the IAEA confirms that Iran has taken the nuclear measures,” the Council added, the European Union “will give effect to the lifting of all E.U. economic financial sanctions taken in connection with the Iranian nuclear program, which will supersede the limited sanctions relief extended today.”

The deal offers Iran lifting of sanctions imposed on it in recent years if it scales back certain components of its nuclear activity. The deal’s supporters say that doing so would prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Its critics, however, maintain that the deal’s terms allow Iran to advance its offensive capabilities to a threshold which, once reached, Iran cannot be prevented from crossing.

The European Council further said that the suspension would allow for “continuous preparations” for the implementation of the July deal and lifting of the sanctions.

The deal is between Iran, the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

The suspension was extended several times during the talks, and then for a further six months after the nuclear deal to give Iran time to meet the conditions.

On Thursday, Iranian Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said his country removed the core vessel of a reactor in Arak, and that IAEA inspectors will visit the site later for verification.