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Bulk of Iran sanctions to be lifted upon fufilment of Lausanne conditions

Iran will be freed from almost all economic and financial sanctions under the plan agreed with major world powers in Lausanne, but only after fulfilling a list of stringent conditions in a process that is expected to take at least six months, according to western diplomats.

The diplomats also conceded that the process could take significantly longer, raising the risk that the Iranian public might grow disillusioned with the agreement, and strengthen the country’s hardliners.

The plan agreed on Thursday includes a set of parameters for a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme due to be signed in Vienna at the end of June. They require Iran to carry out a set of tasks intended to extend its breakout time, the period it would take to produce enough fissile material for a warhead, to a year.

Once the conditions have been fulfilled, the EU oil embargo and all other EU economic and financial sanctions would be lifted, as well as the block on Iran using the Swift system for international electronic banking. In coordination with the EU, Barack Obama would issue waivers on corresponding US sanctions. US and European sanctions would have to lifted together because the US measures are extra-territorial, so would punish European companies for dealing with Iran.

Over the course of 18 months of negotiations, it became clear that a gradual lifting of economic sanctions would not be effective. As long as some restrictions remained, banks would be wary of financing trade or investment in Iran. The sanctions would all have to lifted together, but that also raised the bar that Tehran would have to cross.

“Realistically it will take Iran at least a couple of months to take the necessary nuclear steps that will allow us to provide sanctions relief. Once the IAEA confirms that Iran has taken those steps the EU will immediately terminate implementation of its economic and financial sanctions,” a European official said.

Western officials estimate that the list of conditions should take about six or eight months to fulfil, but that would depend to some extent on how quickly Iran could dilute or arrange the sale of its LEU.

More complicated still will be the issue of the IAEA investigation into possible past weaponisation work. The investigators would require access to military and Revolutionary Guard sites and to talk to the people in their ranks. That would give hardliners in the security establishment a veto on the necessary progress to lift sanctions. A lot will also depend on the IAEA interpretation of the level of Iranian compliance.

Under the Lausanne blueprint, breakout time would be held to a year for the first 10 years but after that, western officials are insistent that precautionary measures are in place so that breakout time would not “fall off a cliff”, plummeting back to its current level of two or three months. Instead, they said, it would be held at a level closer to 10 months.

To that end, development work on advanced centrifuges would be restricted even after the first decade of the agreement, particularly in the case of the IR-6 centrifuge which uses the existing plumbing of the Natanz enrichment plant and so could be installed very rapidly.

Western negotiators acknowledge that behind the phasing of the plan lay the hope that Iran would evolve over the lifetime of the agreement into a less authoritarian regime, and a less volatile actor on the world stage.

“Our hope is – and 10 years is quite a long time – that we will manage to develop a new kind of cooperation with Iran,” an EU official said.