Iran receives $500 million installment, says it won't give up centrifuge research

Funds unfrozen in first phase, others to be distributed throughout six-month period; Zarif says Iran not willing to give up centrifuge research.

Geneva nuclear talks diplomats in line 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse)
Geneva nuclear talks diplomats in line 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse)
Iran has received the first portion of unfrozen funds, $500 million,  that they are set to receive as the beginning phases of the nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers sets into motion, AFP reported on Sunday.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told ISNA news agency Saturday that the transfer of funds was all done according to the agreement.
"The first tranche of $500 million was deposited in a Swiss bank account, and everything was done in accordance with the agreement," Araqchi said.
The first of six installments of sanctions relief, prior to the funds transfer described by the White House as “restricted,” were not accessible by Iran’s government until February 1. Each installment interval is $450- 550 million. Iran will receive a final bulk installment of $4.2 billion on the last day of the six-month period.
The Geneva agreement struck on November 24 requires Iran to begin diluting its stockpile of uranium already enriched to nearly 20% – considered the hardest part of the enrichment process, unnecessary for purposes of civilian power but required for the construction of a warhead
The IAEA is tasked with not only ensuring that Iran disable its centrifuge cascades producing near-20% enriched material, but also that it begins the dilution process.
Other concessions by the P5+1 will not go into effect until “the IAEA has confirmed Iran is implementing its commitments,” the White House said last week.
In what some might see as a step backwards, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Saturday in Munich that Iran is not prepared to give up research on centrifuges used to purify uranium as part of a final deal.
Diplomats have said that one sticking point in the talks has been over the research and development of a new model of advanced nuclear centrifuge that Iran says it has installed.
Centrifuges are machines that purify uranium for use as fuel in atomic power plants or, if purified to a high level, weapons.
Asked if Iran would be prepared to give up research on centrifuges as part of a final deal, Zarif said: "No, but I am not prepared also to negotiate over the air."
"We are going to discuss various aspects of the nuclear program and I do not think technology and science has anything to do with proliferation," he said in an interview with Reuters and The International Media Associates, a television production company.
Diplomats now say, however, that Iran has told the six countries it wants to press ahead with the development of even more advanced centrifuges than the IR-2m.
The November agreement allows Iran to engage in research and development, but bars it from installing new centrifuges.
Western diplomats say they are uncomfortable with the idea of Iran pressing ahead with the development of more advanced centrifuges. But Iran says centrifuge research is crucial.
Asked his expectations for the Feb. 18 talks and how long he thought it would take to reach a final agreement, Zarif said: "It's just the beginning of the negotiations for a final agreement. It is the first step of the final step and I expect it to take some time."
"Of course, in our view it is not that difficult to reach an agreement provided there is good faith and the willingness on the part of all parties to try to examine various options to address the common objective of the Iranian nuclear program being exclusively used for peaceful purposes," he said, speaking on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.
"We are ready because we believe it is in our interests and we have no other intention. So theoretically it shouldn't be that difficult. The detail may be a bit more difficult to achieve, so we will see," said Zarif, speaking in English.
On Jan. 20, the United States and European Union suspended some trade and other restrictions against the OPEC oil producer after the United Nations' nuclear watchdog confirmed that Iran had fulfilled its side of the Nov. 24 agreement.
The announcements allowed six months of negotiation on a definitive accord.
Iran should be able to recover $4.2 billion in oil revenues frozen in foreign accounts over the six months of the interim deal, as well as resume trade in petrochemicals and gold and other precious metals.
Zarif said the six powers had "pretty much" kept their side of the bargain in suspending some sanctions, but it was too early to see the results on Iranian trade.
"The psychological impact is there but the practical implications on petrochemicals and other trade is yet to be seen," he said.
Responding to reports  that Iran would receive the first $550 million installment of the blocked overseas funds on or about Feb. 1, Zarif said he believed Iran had received the installment but was not sure.