White House: Iranian nuclear actions ‘an important first step’

The White House on Monday called a move by Iran to halt production of 20-percent enriched uranium as part of an interim deal between Tehran and the U.S. and five allies “an important first step,” adding that "modest relief" of sanctions will now begin.

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White House spokesman Jay Carney cited a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran has taken the initial steps it agreed to in a deal with the P5+1 – the U.S., United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China.

“Specifically, the IAEA has verified in a written report and subsequent briefing for P5+1 technical experts, that Iran has, among other things, stopped producing 20% enriched uranium, has disabled the configuration of the centrifuge cascades Iran has been using to produce it, has begun diluting its existing stockpile of 20% enriched uranium, and has not installed additional centrifuges at Natanz or Fordow,” Carney said in a statement.

“These actions represent the first time in nearly a decade that Iran has verifiably enacted measures to halt progress on its nuclear program, and roll it back in key respects,” he added.

Carney also said Iran had begun to provide the IAEA with “increased transparency” into its nuclear program, through “more frequent and intrusive inspections and the expanded provision of information to the IAEA.”

“Taken together, these concrete actions represent an important step forward,” Carney said.

As a result of Iran’s actions, Carney said the western nations will begin to provide “the modest relief agreed to with Iran.”

“At the same time, we will continue our aggressive enforcement of the sanctions measures that will remain in place throughout this six-month period,” he added.

“Following the actions taken today, the P5+1, EU, and Iran will also begin the process of negotiating a long-term, comprehensive solution that seeks to address the international community's concerns about Iran's nuclear program,” Carney said. “The United States remains committed to using strong and disciplined diplomacy to reach a peaceful resolution that will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement that the next state of negotiations will be even more complex, saying that officials "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," she added.

--This post was updated at 11:16 a.m.