European Union sanctions against Iran could be eased as soon as December, officials said Monday in response to a historic interim deal that gives Tehran six months to increase access to its nuclear sites in exchange for keeping the core components of its uranium program.
The deal, announced in Geneva Saturday, also envisions lifting some of the sanctions that have crippled the country's economy. The sanctions were instituted over fears that Tehran is using its nuclear program to build atomic weapons, something Iran has denied.
"A Europe-wide decision is necessary" to ease EU sanctions, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told Europe 1 radio. "That's expected in several weeks, for a partial lifting that is targeted, reversible."
"It could be in December, it could be in January, it depends on how long the legislative process takes," EU foreign affairs spokesman Michael Mann told reporters in Brussels.
"They do not receive $7 billion on the first day and then decide if they want to implement their side of the agreement," Hague said, calling the amount of sanctions relief "a very small proportion" of the total frozen assets and value of sanctions applied to Iran.
The deal will allow Iran to keep the central elements of its uranium program, while stopping its enrichment at a level lower than what is needed for nuclear arms. In addition to a six-month window for Iran to allow more U.N. access to nuclear sites, sanctions will be eased — notably in the oil, automotive and aviation industries — though not ended.
On his return to Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif told state television that the country was prepared for quick follow-up negotiations to keep the deal on track.
"We are ready to begin the final stage of nuclear agreement from tomorrow," said Zarif, who was greeted by hundreds of cheering students.
Despite Obama's hopes that no new sanctions will be levied on Iran while the interim agreement is in effect, some U.S. lawmakers want to push ahead with additional penalties. A new sanctions bill has already passed the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, and if it passes the Senate, Obama could have to veto legislation to prevent the derailment of ongoing talks.
Senate Democrats are likely to give the president some time. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Monday the Senate will consider legislation next month to impose tighter sanctions on Iran, but only after studying the issue and possibly holding hearings.
Reid said he would look to fellow Democrats Tim Johnson, chairman of the Banking Committee, and Robert Menendez, who heads the Foreign Relations Committee, for a decision after the Senate returns from its Thanksgiving holiday recess on Dec. 9.
"They will study this, they will hold hearings if necessary, and if we need work on this, if we need stronger sanctions, I am sure we will do that," Reid said on National Public Radio.
Al Jazeera with wire services