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* Hope for Sri Lanka as US, EU begin implementation of the Joint Plan of Action to allow limited sanctions relief to Iran
Mon, Jan 20, 2014, 10:36 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Jan 20, Washington, DC: The United States and the European Union will begin the implementation of the Joint Plan of Action on Iran to provide limited sanctions relief.

The U.S. today received the International Atomic Energy Agency's report on Iran's nuclear program and technical briefing and following its review the U.S. and the EU have decided to begin the implementation of the Joint Plan of Action U.S., the EU, and P5+1 partners negotiated with Iran.

The State Department said in a press statement that after reviewing the IAEA report, the U.S. and the EU have determined that Iran has taken the steps it committed to doing by or on the first day of implementation regarding its nuclear program.

"As a result of Iran's actions, today the United States and the European Union will begin implementing the limited sanctions relief we committed to under the Joint Plan of Action as well."

The European Union also issuing a statement said Iran has implemented the nuclear-related measures agreed in the Joint Plan of Action, and Foreign Ministers of the EU adopted the necessary legislation to suspend the EU measures set out in the Joint Plan of Action for a period of six months. The suspension of these sanctions will enter into force today.

Whether the limited ease of sanctions on Iran will provide relief to Sri Lanka is however yet to be seen.

The State Department said for the U.S., the action involves a variety of specific steps, including the issuing the necessary statutory waivers and guidance on the non-enforcement of the elements of the Executive Orders associated with the sanctions requiring relief.

Secretary of State John Kerry has approved the necessary waivers and those will be notified to Congress today.

The U.S. will also release specific guidance documents to explain the scope and limitations of the relief undertaken today.

Sri Lanka was dependent almost entirely on Iran for its crude oil supplies since the country's only refinery at Sapugaskanda that used to process 50,000 barrels per day can only process light crude oil from Iran. The sanctions had cost Sri Lanka billions of rupees since the country was forced to import refined fuel at a higher cost.

Furthermore, the Sri Lankan and Iranian governments have entered into several agreements where the Iranian government has pledged financial support for several development projects in the country including the Uma Oya project and the upgrading of the Sapugaskanda Oil refinery.

The government had to put all these projects on hold following the economic sanctions imposed on Iran by the US.

The US and EU will monitor the progress of the implementation action plan over the next six months to initiate negotiations for a more comprehensive plan.

The EU said over the coming six months, proper implementation of the agreed measures will be the key.

"This is an important first step, but more work will be needed to fully address the international community's concerns regarding the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear programme."

The EU expects to start negotiations about a comprehensive solution with Iran in February.

The United States said the Iran has begun to take concrete and verifiable steps to halt its nuclear program and today's actions are significant steps in the efforts to achieve a diplomatic solution to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

The U.S. said future negotiations to reach a comprehensive agreement that addresses all of the international community's concerns will be even more complex but they are "clear-eyed" about the difficulties ahead.

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