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Pending approval from a United Nations agency that Tehran has scaled back its nuclear program, economic sanctions against Iran will be lifted on Saturday, the Islamic republic’s foreign minister said.
In a visit to the Vienna headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which can issue a report triggering the removal of the sanctions, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said “implementation day” is upon us.
“Today with the release of the IAEA chief’s report the nuclear deal will be implemented, after which a joint statement will be made to announce the beginning of the deal,” Zarif was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA, according to Reuters.
“Today is a good day for the Iranian people as sanctions will be lifted today,” he added.
Speculation of the deal’s implementation was stoked by news early Saturday that Iran has freed four American prisoners, including a Washington Post journalist it had held for 18 months.
The release of the Americans reportedly comes as part of a prisoner swap with the U.S.
In advance of the sanctions relief, Iran’s Mehr news agency reported executives from two of the world’s largest oil companies, Shell and Total, had arrived in Tehran on Saturday for talks with state oil companies.
The deal, which was negotiated between Iran and six world powers, is opposed by all of the Republican candidates running for president, who argue it will only delay a nuclear-armed Iran and give the nation further means to sponsor terrorism in the region.
The Obama administration says the deal will prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities and improve diplomatic relations between Iran and the global community.
The implementation of the deal comes after reports that Iran tested ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead since the deal was negotiated.
Iran also last week captured and briefly detained 10 U.S. Navy sailors who had inadvertently navigated into Iranian waters.