Iran's President Hassan Rohani, Dec. 7, 2013.
Iran's President Hassan Rohani, Dec. 7, 2013. Photo by AP
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that the talks with Iran toward a final nuclear agreement will be difficult, but they represent the "best chance" for the world to calm fears about Tehran's nuclear program and achieve long-term peace.

Six world powers and Iran agreed on Sunday to start implementing an interim nuclear deal on Jan. 20, the EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.

"Capitals have confirmed the result of the talks in Geneva ... the Geneva deal will be implemented from January 20," Marzieh Afkham, spokeswoman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, told reporters in Tehran, the semi-official Mehr news agency said.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also confirmed the date, and said the sides would now ask the United Nations' nuclear watchdog to verify the deal's implementation.

"We will ask the IAEA to undertake the necessary nuclear-related monitoring and verification activities," she said in a statement.

Kerry told reporters in Paris that the U.S. will keep a close eye on Iran during this interim period — which he says will be the first time in nearly a decade that Iran isn't advancing its nuclear program.
Ashton represents the six powers - the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany - in contacts with Iran related to its controversial nuclear program.

Senior officials from the European Union and Iran met in Geneva on Thursday and Friday to iron out remaining practical questions related to the implementation of the Nov. 24 deal, under which Iran agreed to curb its most sensitive nuclear work in return for some relief from Western economic sanctions.

EU spokesman Michael Mann said on Friday that any agreements would need to be validated by the governments of Iran and the six powers.

The accord is designed to last six months and the parties hope to use the time to negotiate a final, broad settlement governing the scope of Iran's nuclear program.

Western powers suspect Iran has been trying to develop the ability to manufacture a nuclear weapon. Iran says its program is aimed purely at civilian electricity generation and other civilian purposes.