Iran says hurrying to implement its side of nuclear deal

VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran is hurrying to implement its side of a deal with world powers so as to bring about the lifting of international sanctions as quickly as possible, Tehran’s envoy to the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Tuesday.

The envoy, Reza Najafi, was speaking shortly after the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation board decided to close its investigation of Iran’s past nuclear activities, throwing its support behind Tehran’s deal with major powers.

Under that deal, Iran must shrink its nuclear program. Once the IAEA has verified that a series of restrictions on its Tehran’s atomic activities are in place, international sanctions that have buffeted the Iranian economy will be lifted.

“We are intending to complete this process within two to three weeks, so accelerate the implementation day as soon as possible,” Najafi told reporters after an exceptional IAEA board meeting at which a resolution on Iran was passed.

The measures Iran must put in place include slashing its number of centrifuges, sensitive machines that purify uranium to levels at which it can be used as reactor fuel or, if enriched further, in atom bombs.

Among other measures it must take are reducing its stockpile of enriched uranium and removing the core of a reactor at Arak before filling it with concrete so as to ensure it cannot produce plutonium, which can also be used to make weapons.

IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said it appeared Iran was moving “at quite high speed” to put all the measures in place, but the agency would need weeks after Iran had finished to verify that it had done everything required of it.

Najafi said removing and filling the Arak reactor’s core vessel, known as a calandria, would be the hardest of the requirements to implement.

A fuel swap with Russia, in which much of Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium will be exchanged for a less refined form of uranium known as yellowcake, would be relatively simple and could happen quickly, he added.

Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Alison Williams