Iran talks to resume in February

Talks between Iran and six world powers to strike a permanent nuclear deal are likely to resume in February after the six-month interim agreement has taken effect.

A diplomatic source told Reuters Monday that the new round of talks will begin next month, where Iran and the P5+1 group — the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany — will try to reach a final settlement over Iran’s nuclear program.

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The first meeting in the new round of talks would include Iranian Foreign Minster Javad Zarif and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who has led negotiations for the P5+1 group.

"It won't happen in January, because of the Chinese New Year, but it is very, very, very likely in February," the diplomat told Reuters.

The countries announced Sunday that the interim agreement reached in November would take effect on Jan. 20.

Under the terms of the agreement, Iran will stop enriching 20 percent uranium and dilute its stockpiles, in exchange for roughly $7 billion in relief from economic sanctions.

Iran will still be able to continue enriching 5 percent uranium, however, which has irked critics of the deal who want Iran to give up its nuclear program.

The final talks will tackle many thorny issues that weren’t addressed in the interim deal, including Iran’s insistence on a “right” to enrich uranium.

The negotiations could also be affected a new sanctions bill from Congress.

U.S. lawmakers critical of the interim deal are pushing for a new sanctions bill that would take effect if Iran walks away from the agreement or the final negotiations.

The bill from Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) has 59 co-sponsors, including 16 Democrats.

The White House has mounted an intense lobbying effort against the bill, warning that it would derail the diplomatic process and create divisions in the international community.

Obama has threatened to veto any bill enacting new sanctions while the negotiations are ongoing.

In Iran, lawmakers are also divided about the interim agreement, with moderate conservatives praising it for boosting Iran’s economy and hard-liners remaining opposed, the Associated Press reports.

"By enforcing the deal, there will be some openings for Iran's economy and restrictions will be eased," said Alaeddin Boroujerdi, a moderate conservative and head of the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy. "Economic sanctions will reduce and the way will be paved for expansion of economic activities."

Hard-liners say the agreement “practically tramples on Iran’s enrichment rights.”

“They are going to give us part of our own money as if we are indebted," Iranian cleric Mohammad Reza Ashtiani said, according to the semi official Fars News Agency.

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