PARIS — Iran and six world powers have agreed on how to put in place an accord that would temporarily freeze much of Iran’s nuclear program, US and Iranian officials said Sunday. That agreement will go into effect Jan. 20.
International negotiators worked out an agreement in November to constrain much of Iran’s program for six months so that diplomats would have time to pursue a more comprehensive follow-up accord.
But before the temporary agreement could take effect, negotiators had to work out the technical procedures for carrying it out and resolve some of its ambiguities in concert with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Under the interim agreement, Iran would stop enriching uranium beyond 5 percent, a level that would be sufficient for energy production but that would require further enrichment for making bombs.
Iran’s stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent would be diluted or converted to oxide so that it could not be readily used for military purposes.
Iran agreed not to install any new centrifuges, start up any that were not already operating, or build new enrichment facilities. The agreement, however, does not require Iran to stop enriching uranium to a low level of 3.5 percent, or to dismantle any existing centrifuges.
In return, the United States and its negotiating partners will provide Iran with about $6 billion to $7 billion in relief from economic sanctions, according to White House estimates.
“Beginning Jan. 20, Iran will for the first time start eliminating its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium and dismantling some of the infrastructure that makes such enrichment possible,” President Obama said in a statement Sunday.
A major question is whether this interim accord will set the conditions for a more far-reaching agreement that would substantially roll back Iran’s program.
Critics have asserted that by providing Iran with sanctions relief, the West would be easing the pressure on the government to make major concessions. But defenders of the interim accord said that it was needed to maintain the support of the United States’ negotiating partners and to buy time to pursue a comprehensive agreement.
Obama said in December that there was no more than a 50-50 chance of achieving a more comprehensive follow-up accord.
In a statement issued in Paris, Secretary of State John Kerry said the negotiations on a follow-up agreement would be “difficult.”
“We are clear-eyed about the even greater challenges we all face in negotiating a comprehensive agreement,” said Kerry, who is in Paris for a meeting on the Syrian crisis. “These negotiations will be very difficult, but they represent the best chance we have to resolve this critical national security issue peacefully, and durably.”
Iran’s official IRNA news agency quoted the Iranian deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, as saying Iran will grant the United Nations’ atomic 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 $4.2 billion in seized oil revenue would be released under the deal, in addition to other sanctions relief.
Over the next six months, the world powers involved in the agreement — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States — will continue negotiations with Iran on a permanent deal.
The West fears that Iran’s nuclear program could allow it to build a nuclear bomb. Iran says its program is for peaceful purposes, such as medical research and power generation.
Iran’s semiofficial ISNA news agency reported Sunday that under the terms of the deal, Iran will guarantee that it will not try to attain nuclear arms ‘‘under any circumstance.’’ However, Araghchi stressed Iran could resume production of 20 percent uranium in ‘‘one day’’ if it chose.
Under the agreement, UN inspectors will have daily access to Iranian nuclear sites and would make monthly reports, the Associated Press reported, quoting senior US officials. Iran will dilute half of its nuclear material during the first three months of the agreement, the officials said, and all of it by the end of the agreement.
In exchange, Iran would have access to parts for its civilian aviation, petrochemical, and automotive industries, as well as be allowed to import and export gold, the officials said.