The European Union prepared Friday to lift economic sanctions against Iran, amid expectation that a 13-year-long dispute over Tehran's nuclear ambitions is about to come to an end.
In July, Iran reached a deal with six world powers promising to significantly curb its nuclear activities, in return for an end to a raft of restrictive measures imposed by the United States and the EU that have seriously hampered the country's economy.
The agreement aims to restrict Iran's ability to build a nuclear weapon, an aim it has always denied.
Tehran is now waiting for confirmation that it has fulfilled all the required steps, which is expected to occur at a ceremony in the next few days. The exact place or time had not been set by Friday afternoon.
In Brussels, the legal text triggering the lifting of sanctions was ready by Friday morning, EU diplomats said on condition of anonymity. It will take effect as soon as it is published in the bloc's official journal, once the Iran deal is implemented.
To ensure a speedy adoption, 27 of the EU's 28 member states signed the document Friday, leaving the Netherlands to complete the process, once the go-ahead is given. The country currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.
Among other things, the sanctions have restricted Iran's ability to export oil and gas.
Before sanctions can be lifted, as foreseen by the July deal, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has to confirm that Tehran has fulfilled its side of the agreement by scaling down its nuclear activities.
This report could come as early as Friday, diplomats said, but left open the possibility of a delay by one or more days.
After the IAEA gives the green light, EU, US and UN sanctions are to be quickly lifted, according to the provisions of the agreement that Iran struck with the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.
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