Washington: Iran will get access to USD 4.2 billion of its blocked assets in phases depending upon the progress it makes on implementing a nuclear agreement that will take effect form January 20, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday.
Iran and the P5+1 group - the US, UK, Russia, China, and France plus Germany - sealed a six-month Joint Plan of Action in November last year.
Under the plan, Iran agreed to curb parts of its nuclear programme for six months in exchange for modest relief from international sanctions.
"The United States and the rest of our P5+1 partners will also take steps, in response to Iran fulfilling its commitments, to begin providing some limited and targeted relief," Kerry said.
"The USD 4.2 billion in restricted Iranian assets that Iran will gain access to as part of the agreement will be released in regular installments throughout the six months. The final installment will not be available to Iran until the very last day," he said.
Following the agreement in Geneva, in a statement Kerry said that Iran will voluntarily take immediate and important steps between now and January 20 to halt the progress of its nuclear programme.
Iran will also continue to take steps throughout the six months to live up to its commitments, such as rendering the entire stockpile of its 20 per cent enriched uranium unusable for further enrichment.
"As this agreement takes effect, we will be extraordinarily vigilant in our verification and monitoring of Iran`s actions, an effort that will be led by the International Atomic Energy Agency," he said.
Noting that while implementation is an important step, he said the next phase poses a far greater challenge: negotiating a comprehensive agreement that resolves outstanding concerns about the peaceful nature of Iran`s nuclear programme.
Reiterating that the US would not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, Kerry said the Obama Administration has been clear that diplomacy is its preferred path because other options carry much greater costs and risks and are less likely to provide a lasting solution.
"We now have an obligation to give our diplomats and experts every chance to succeed in these difficult negotiations," Kerry said, adding that it is not the right time for the Congress to impose any additional sanctions on Iran.
"We are clear-eyed about the even greater challenges we all face in negotiating a comprehensive agreement. These negotiations will be very difficult, but they represent the best chance we have to resolve this critical national security issue peacefully, and durably," he noted.
Western countries have long suspected Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons capability. But Iran has denied the charges.