As nuclear drawdown begins, EU lifts some sanctions against Iran

LONDON -- The European Union said Monday it was immediately lifting some of its economic sanctions against Iran now that the Tehran regime has begun scaling back part of its nuclear program as promised in a landmark diplomatic agreement.

Key restrictions on Iran’s vital oil industry are being rolled back for six months, including the provision of insurance and transport for shipments of crude and other petrochemical goods.

Also, the ban on trade in gold and precious metals between the EU’s 28 member nations and Iran’s government, state agencies and central bank is being temporarily eased, and the upper limit on financial transfers into and out of the country is being increased 10-fold.

The EU’s announcement should pave the way for billions of dollars to flow into the Islamic Republic, whose economy has been hard hit by the international sanctions imposed by the West over Tehran’s controversial nuclear program.

Iran insists that it is developing its nuclear capacity purely for peaceful purposes to generate energy, but the United States and other nations fear that the real goal is to develop a nuclear weapon.

A groundbreaking international deal was reached last November under which Iran agreed to stop enriching uranium close to the level required for use in a nuclear weapon and to draw down its stockpile of such uranium.

The International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna said Monday that Tehran had begun complying with those strictures, the Associated Press reported.

In return, the EU had pledged to call off some -- though not all -- of its sanctions.

“This is an important first step, but more work will be needed to fully address the international community’s concerns regarding the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program,” said Catherine Ashton, the EU’s top diplomat, who was instrumental in brokering the November agreement. “We aim to start negotiations about a comprehensive solution with Iran in February.”

Twitter: @HenryHChu

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