By Elise Labott
Global powers and Iran are preparing to carry out an interim deal to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions in exchange for easing some economic sanctions while they try to negotiate a comprehensive agreement.
Successful implementation may ultimately revolve around previously unreported details about Iranian rights regarding its nuclear program that were included in a 30-page side bar to the six-month agreement that takes effect on January 20.
Some call it a "secret" development, while others say it's just part of a careful international negotiating process where all details don't always surface.
Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Abbas Araqchi, revealed the existence of the addendum on Monday in a Persian-language interview with the semiofficial Iranian Students News Agency.
Calling it a "non-paper," Araqchi said it addresses the creation of a joint commission to oversee how the interim deal will be carried out and covers Iran's right to continue its nuclear research and development during the six-month period.
Side deals are generally not disclosed as part of any main agreement. Nations often use them to codify understandings they don't want public.
The State Department pushed back at the notion of a "secret" side deal, saying the documents detailing implementation of the agreement have already been described by Obama administration officials and will be submitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog, for verification.
Senior administration officials conceded on Sunday that Iran would be able to continue nuclear research and development.
The White House says it is deciding how much of agreement struck in November between Iran, the United States and five other world powers to release.
But it's no surprise conditions under which Iran would be allowed to continue nuclear research and development is something either side in the talks would want public.
The United States and its allies believe Iran is working toward a nuclear weapon, while Tehran says it's intentions are peaceful.
Congress, which is threatening new sanctions if Iran fails to hold up its end of bargain, has voiced concern at the idea of Iran being able to continue to develop nuclear projects, while Iran wants to prove to a domestic audience that they are not completely abandoning their nuclear ambitions under the November 24 deal.
In his interview, Araqchi suggested Iran would have wide latitude to continue nuclear research. By keeping the details secret, both sides can claim they are sticking to the principles that are guiding their negotiators.