Iran's foreign minister suggested Saturday that the U.N. atomic agency is close to certifying that his country has met all commitments under its landmark nuclear deal with six world powers, as he began a series of meetings with his European Union and U.S. counterparts on implementing the accord.
"All oppressive sanctions imposed against Iran will be annulled today," Mohammad Javad Zarif said in comments on Iranian state TV -- a reference to the start of the process that will end financial and other penalties imposed on his country once the U.N. agency says Tehran has fulfilled its obligations to restrict its nuclear programs.
Certification by the International Atomic Energy Agency would allow Iran to immediately recoup some $100 billion in assets frozen overseas. The benefits of new oil, trade and financial opportunities from suspended sanctions could prove far more valuable for Tehran in the long run.
Zarif and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who met Saturday morning, were to be joined later by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Vienna, headquarters of the IAEA. Kerry's plane landed in the early afternoon.
Zarif said the deal between his country and the six world powers would hold, telling Iranian media that all parties would "not allow the outcome of these talks to be wasted."
The agreement, struck after decades of hostility, defused the likelihood of U.S. or Israeli military action against Iran, something Zarif alluded to.
"Our region has been freed from shadow of an unnecessary conflict that could have caused concerns for the region," he said. "Today is also a good day for the world. Today will prove that we can solve important problems through diplomacy."
Iran insists all of its nuclear activities are peaceful. But under the July 14 deal, Iran agreed to crimp programs which could be used to make nuclear weapons in return for an end to sanctions.
The agreement puts Iran's various nuclear activities under IAEA watch for up to 15 years, with an option to re-impose sanctions should Tehran break its commitments.