Iran begins work to curb uranium enrichment

Iran has begun work to curtail its uranium enrichment activities in line with its agreement with world powers reached last November, an official of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization said Monday.

The European Union formally decided at a foreign ministerial meeting in Brussels to partially suspend sanctions against Tehran immediately, after the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed Iran's compliance with the agreement.

The Iranian move, coming around two months after the historic nuclear deal was struck with six world powers, marks an important step forward in international efforts to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.

The world powers -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- and Iran hope to reach a comprehensive solution by the end of this year.

Under the agreement, Iran is supposed to stop enriching uranium over 5 percent and dilute its stockpiles of roughly 20 percent enriched uranium at plants in Natanz and Fordow to prevent Tehran from using it for nuclear weapons development.

In a report to member states, the U.N. nuclear watchdog acknowledged that Iran has begun related work, according to diplomatic sources.

EU foreign ministers are expected to decide to partially halt sanctions against Iran for six months, including a ban on companies transporting Iranian crude for third countries or reinsuring such crude oil transport.

The Nov. 24 nuclear deal would curb Iran's nuclear activities in return for the easing of sanctions imposed by Western countries. Under the agreement, called the "Joint Plan for Action," the European Union and the United States will refrain from imposing new nuclear related sanctions.

Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but Western countries have long suspected that Iran's uranium enrichment program is a cover for the development of nuclear weapons.