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Iran anticipates positive effects of interim nuclear deal

A worker rode a bicycle in front of the reactor building of the Bushehr nuclear power plant.

AP/file 2010

A worker rode a bicycle in front of the reactor building of the Bushehr nuclear power plant.

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian officials said they expected positive economic changes with the lifting of some sanctions against the country as part of a deal struck with world powers, which begins Monday.

The interim deal, signed in November in Geneva and completed last week, will temporarily freeze much of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for limited relief from the Western economic sanctions. The deal will last for six months, giving Iran and the six other countries involved — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — time to negotiate a permanent deal.

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Nuclear inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ watchdog group, who will monitor the Iranian elements of the agreement, arrived in Tehran over the weekend, local news media reported.

Iranian leaders, including some hard-liners, have welcomed the deal, which allows the nation to freely export petrochemical products, have sanctions lifted on gold and precious metals, and create a special banking channel to facilitate payments for goods like food and medicine. These products were not affected by sanctions in the past but could not be paid for because of restrictions on all international financial transactions with Iran.

“Through these talks in Geneva, we are heading in a direction in which not only the sanctions are being lifted, but also Iran’s political isolation is coming to an end,” Mohammad Sadr, an adviser to Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, told the Iranian Student News Agency on Sunday.

“It will take time, but these two fundamental problems will be solved,” he said.

If Iran starts diluting parts of its stockpile of uranium that has been enriched up to 20 percent, which is close to weapons-grade material, it will be rewarded with the release of some of its funds that have been frozen abroad, up to $4.2 billion.

Describing Iran’s economy as having its arms and legs tied to “the ropes of the sanctions,” President Hassan Rouhani said last week that he expected the economy to improve under the deal.

“One of these ropes will be cut,” Rouhani said, according to state television. “Overall, in my opinion, we will witness a positive, acceptable and outstanding change in the country’s economic sector in the next six months.”

Rouhani is scheduled to address the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday, and he is expected to highlight the opportunities the Iranian market has to offer.

Critics of the deal in Congress and elsewhere are warning that the limited sanction relief offered to Iran by the Obama administration will undermine the intended effect of the measures, which was to force Iran into a compromise over its nuclear program. The critics say that easing the sanctions could lead to an end of the Islamic republic’s international isolation, which, they say, is what brought the Iranians to the negotiating table in the first place.

Austrian Airlines announced last week that it was resuming flights to Iran after a one-year break forced by the sanctions, and several European political and trade delegations have visited the country in recent weeks.

Inside Iran, some hard-liners are complaining that the government is trying to silence critics of the deal, which some here say was a loss for the Iranians, who refused any compromise with the West for more than a decade.

“Criticizing the Geneva agreement is like denying the Holocaust,” said Hamid Rasaei, a hard-line member of Parliament, according to the semiofficial Fars News Agency. His newspaper and another weekly were closed after they spoke out against the agreement, said Rasaei, a Shiite Muslim cleric.

“Anybody who dares to speak out against parts of the agreement will be confronted,” he said.

Rouhani, in a speech broadcast nationally Thursday, warned that some people in the country did not want the sanctions to be lifted, accusing them of benefiting politically and economically from the measures.

“I have a lot to say, but today is not the right time,” he said. “But a group of people are against the establishment of normal conditions in the country because of their own interests and that of their group.”

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