US and EU lift nuclear-related sanctions against Iran
The US and EU lifted economic sanctions against Iran after the UN nuclear agency certified Saturday that Iran has met all of its commitments under last summer's landmark nuclear deal.
For Iran, the move lifts crippling Western economic sanctions that have been in place for years, unlocking access to $100 billion in frozen assets and unleashing new opportunities for its battered economy.
"The multinational economic and financial sanctions related to Iran's nuclear program are lifted," Federica Mogherini, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said in a joint statement also read in Farsi by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Jawad Zarif.
President Barack Obama signed executive orders lifting economic sanctions on Iran and Mogherini said the EU had lifted its nuclear-related sanctions as well.
"This historic deal is both strong and fair, and it meets the requirements of all," Mogherini declared, saying it serves to "improve regional and international peace, security and stability."
US Secretary of State John Kerry, who led the last years of negotiations with Zarif that culminated in the 14 July deal, confirmed that the UN's International Atomic Energy could verify that "Iran has fully implemented its required commitments."
"Relations between Iran and the IAEA now enter a new phase," said IAEA director general Yukiya Amano. "It is an important day for the international community."
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said Saturday's implementation of a nuclear deal with world powers was a "glorious victory" for the "patient nation of Iran."
In comments posted on his official Twitter account, he wrote: "I thank God for this blessing & bow to the greatness of the patient nation of Iran. Congrats on this glorious victory!"
The announcement of sanctions relief comes on the same day Iranian officials announced that Iran was releasing four detained Iranian-Americans in exchange for seven Iranians held or charged in the United States.
US officials said the four - Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, former US Marine Amir Hekmati, pastor Saeed Abedini and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari - were to be flown from Iran to Switzerland on a Swiss plane and then brought to a US military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, for medical treatment.
In return, the US will either pardon or drop charges against seven Iranians - six of them dual citizens - accused or convicted of violating US sanctions against Iran.
The US will also drop Interpol "red notices" - essentially arrest warrants - on a handful of Iranian fugitives it has sought.
The landmark Iran nuclear agreement, struck after decades of hostility, defused the likelihood of US or Israeli military action against Iran, something Zarif alluded to.
"Our region has been freed from shadow of an unnecessary conflict that could have caused concerns for the region," he said. "Today is also a good day for the world. Today will prove that we can solve important problems through diplomacy."
Iran insists all of its nuclear activities are peaceful. But under the July 14 deal, it agreed to alter programs that could be used to make nuclear weapons in return for an end to sanctions.
The agreement puts Iran's various nuclear activities under IAEA watch for up to 15 years, with an option to re-impose sanctions should Tehran break its commitments.