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Iran, world powers cut deal on nuke plan

TEHRAN, Iran--Iran has agreed to limit uranium enrichment and to open its nuclear program to daily inspection by international experts starting Jan. 20, setting the clock running on a six-month deadline for a final nuclear agreement, officials said.

In exchange, the Islamic Republic will get a relaxation of the financial sanctions that have been crippling its economy.

The announcement that Iran and six world powers had agreed on the plan for implementing an interim agreement came first from Iranian officials and was later confirmed elsewhere. Some U.S. lawmakers have been leery of the agreement, calling for tougher sanctions against Iran, rather than any loosening of controls.

Iran's official IRNA news agency on Sunday quoted Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi as saying the deal, which sets the terms of a landmark agreement reached in November, would take effect from Jan. 20. IRNA said Iran will grant the United Nations' watchdog — the International Atomic Energy Agency — access to its nuclear facilities and its centrifuge production lines to confirm it is complying with terms of the deal.

Araghchi later told state television that some US$4.2 billion in seized oil revenue would be released under the deal. Senior officials in President Barack Obama's administration put the total relief figure at US$7 billion.

In a statement, Obama welcomed the deal, saying it “will advance our goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

“I have no illusions about how hard it will be to achieve this objective, but for the sake of our national security and the peace and security of the world, now is the time to give diplomacy a chance to succeed,” Obama said.

Under the November agreement, Iran agreed to limit its uranium enrichment to 5 percent — the grade commonly used to power reactors. The deal also commits Iran to stop producing 20 percent enriched uranium — which is only a technical step away from weapons-grade material — and to neutralize its 20 percent stockpile over the six months.

In exchange, economic sanctions Iran faces would be eased for six months. During that time, the so-called P5+1 world powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — would continue negotiations with Iran on a permanent deal.

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