Sources: Talks with Iran on Permanent Deal to Start in February

Obama administration expects negotiations on a final agreement with Iran to begin by mid-February, say congressional aides.

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Elad Benari,

Foreign ministers during nuclear talks with I
Foreign ministers during nuclear talks with I

The Obama administration expects negotiations on a final nuclear agreement between world powers and Iran to begin by mid-February, The Associated Press (AP) reported on Wednesday.

The report cited congressional aides who were briefed by State Department and Treasury Department officials.

The aides told AP that the U.S. and its partners are currently consulting among themselves on next steps in the nuclear talks. The group plans to meet with Iran again next month.

The six-month interim agreement which was reached between Iran and six world powers went into effect this week. The United States has already formally lifted select sanctions on Iran, claiming Iran is taking step to curb back its nuclear program.

The aides reported that the administration is keen to begin hashing out the final agreement, which may prove far tougher. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the status of the talks.

As part of the deal, Iran agreed to halt parts of its nuclear program in exchange for relief in some of the sanctions. Iran is expected to receive the first $550 million installment of a total of $4.2 billion in previously blocked overseas funds on or about February 1.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Foreign Minister claimed on Wednesday that his country never agreed to dismantle any part of its nuclear program in the interim deal.

Speaking to CNN, Mohammad Javad Zarif insisted that the Obama administration was mischaracterizing the concessions by Iran in the six-month nuclear deal.

"The White House version both underplays the concessions and overplays Iranian commitments,"  he charged, adding, "The White House tries to portray it as basically a dismantling of Iran's nuclear program. That is the word they use time and again. If you find a single, a single word, that even closely resembles dismantling or could be defined as dismantling in the entire text, then I would take back my comment."

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has warned that the deal is a dangerous one, putting him at odds with President Barack Obama, who reportedly responded by avoiding his phone calls and telling Netanyahu “not to be so vocal with his criticism of the deal.”

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon hinted in a Politico article earlier this week that Israel would take all means necessary to prevent a nuclear Iran - including a possible strike