Iran nuclear plan reached, awaits approval

Iran's nuclear envoy in Geneva says an initial agreement has been reached on how to implement a nuclear deal with six world powers.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi says government will respond to terms in 2 days

Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, right, shakes hands with Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Yukiya Amano at a meeting in Vienna, Austria, in Oct. 2013. Araghchi says world powers and the Iranian government should respond within two days to an initial agreement on how to implement a nuclear deal. (Hans Punz/Associated Press)

Iran's nuclear envoy in Geneva said Friday that an initial agreement has been reached on how to implement a nuclear deal with six world powers.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, in comments to the official IRNA news agency, said world powers and the Iranian government should respond within two days about whether they accept the terms, which he did not reveal.

It maps out a first-step agreement for six months as diplomats from Iran and the so-called P5+1 — the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany — negotiate a permanent agreement. The five veto-wielding Security Council members are Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

The European Union, whose negotiators Catherine Ashton and Helga Schmid represent the P5+1, reported on Twitter that Araghchi and Schmid made very good progress "on all pertinent issues" related to implementing the Nov. 24 deal — which would require Iran to stop some of its nuclear activities in exchange for some sanctions being dropped.

Araghchi told IRNA that "technical and political differences were settled through a solution" that must go to capitals for approval.

"The result will be announced within next two days," said Araghchi, after which "the first step will be taken for implementation" of the November deal.

U.S. Senators push for sanctions

Meanwhile, 59 U.S. senators are now backing a new sanctions package they say would increase pressure on Iran to make nuclear concessions, congressional aides said Friday.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington last month to persuade Congress to not forge any new economic sanctions on Iran. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)
The aides provided the latest tally on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly on the matter. Sixty votes are needed to pass most legislation in the 100-member upper chamber. The Obama administration, which considers the bill a threat to diplomatic efforts, has vowed a veto if it gets out of Congress.

The legislation would blacklist several Iranian industrial sectors and threaten banks and companies around the world with being banned from the U.S. market if they help Iran export any more oil. The provisions would only take effect if Tehran violates the six-month interim deal that world powers reached with Iran in Geneva in November or lets it expire without a comprehensive nuclear agreement.

Administration officials fear the new economic restrictions could jeopardize the interim nuclear deal, as well as negotiations on a final agreement that would end the threat of Iran developing nuclear weapons. By scuttling the diplomatic chances, the administration argues, Congress would be making a potential war with Iran more likely.

Iran: Nuclear power, not weapons

Iran insists it has no interest in nuclear weapons, only nuclear power, but the United States and its allies are skeptical. Limiting uranium enrichment is one of the core aims of the six-month interim deal.

Enriched uranium, depending on its grade, can be used either for reactor fuel or — at levels above 90 per cent — for the fissile core of a nuclear warhead.

The details of the initial agreement were not clear. But two officials have told The Associated Press that Iran was coming to the table with demands to exempt a facility used for research and the development of uranium enrichment from the overall curbs on its enrichment.

That is something that has been opposed by the six powers.