Among measures Iran is taking since the interim agreement took
effect on January 20 is the dilution of its stock of higher-enriched
uranium to a fissile concentration less suitable for any attempt to
fuel an atomic bomb.
Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA), indicated that Iran had made sufficient progress in
this regard to receive a scheduled March 1 installment of $450
million out of a total of $4.2 billion in previously blocked
The IAEA has a pivotal role in checking that Iran is living up to
its part of the six-month accord in curbing its disputed nuclear
program in exchange for some easing of sanctions that have impaired
its oil-dependent economy.
"As of today, measures agreed under the Joint Plan of Action are
being implemented as planned," Amano said, referring to the November
24 agreement struck in Geneva between Iran and the United States,
Germany, France, Russia, China and Britain.
These included "the dilution of a proportion of Iran's inventory" of
20 percent uranium gas to a lower enrichment level, which "has
reached the halfway mark", he told the IAEA's 35-nation board,
according to a copy of his speech.
Under the accord, Iran suspended enrichment of uranium to 20 percent
fissile concentration - a relatively short technical step away from
the level required for nuclear bombs - and is taking action to
neutralize its holding of the material.
In return, Iran is gradually winning access to $4.2 billion of its
oil revenues frozen abroad and some other sanctions relief. The
funds will be paid out in eight transfers on a schedule that started
with a $550 million payment by Japan on February 1.
Last month, banking sources said South Korea was set to make two
payments in March totaling $1 billion.
The March 1 installment depended on Iran following a schedule for
diluting part of its stockpile, which Amano's comment suggested it
now had. But it was not immediately clear if the funds had already
been transferred to Iran.
The Geneva deal was designed to buy time for negotiations on a final
settlement of the decade-old stand-off over nuclear activity that
Iran says is peaceful but the West fears may be latently aimed at
developing a nuclear bomb capability.
[to top of second column]
IAEA SHORT OF CASH FOR IRAN WORK
Those talks began in Vienna last month and are due to resume on
March 17, also in the Austrian capital. The goal is to hammer out a
long-term agreement by late July, though the deadline can be
extended by six months if both sides agree.
Expert-level talks between the sides are to be held in Vienna on
March 5-7, Iran's official IRNA news agency said.
Separately, the IAEA is investigating suspicions - largely believed
to be based on intelligence provided by Western states and Israel -
that Iran has researched how to construct an atomic bomb, a charge
Tehran denies. Iran says it is Israel's assumed nuclear arsenal that
threatens Middle East peace.
Amano made clear his determination that those allegations - alleged
experimentation and tests to develop the expertise needed to turn
fissile material into a functioning atomic bomb - must be cleared
"The measures implemented by Iran, and the further commitments it
has undertaken, represent a positive step forward, but much remains
to be done to resolve all outstanding issues," the veteran Japanese
He said clarification of all issues related to the possible military
dimensions to Iran's nuclear program is "essential".
Amano said 17 IAEA member states had so far expressed interest in
contributing extra-budgetary funds to help finance the IAEA's extra
workload in monitoring the implementation of the Geneva agreement in
Iran, but that more was needed. "We are still short of some €1.6
million ($2.21 million)," Amano said.
The U.N. agency said in January it needed about 5.5 million euros
from member states to pay for its increased activities in Iran. This
would cover more inspectors sent to Iran and the purchase of
specialized surveillance-related equipment.
($1 = 0.7240 euros)
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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