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This is the first of two papers devoted to the study of a nonlocal evolution equation that describes the evolution of the local magnetization in a continuum limit of an Ising spin system with Kawasaki dynamics and Kac potentials. We consider subcritical temperatures, for which there are two local equilibria, and begin the proof of a local nonlinear stability result for the minimum free energy profiles for the magnetization at the interface between regions of these two different local equilibria; i.e., the fronts. We shall show in the second paper that an initial perturbation v0 of a front that is sufficiently small in L2 norm, and sufficiently localized that ∫x2v0(x)2dx < ∞, yields a solution that relaxes to another front, selected by a conservation law, in the L1 norm at an algebraic rate that we explicitly estimate. There we also obtain rates for the relaxation in the L2 norm and the rate of decrease of the excess free energy. Here we prove a number of estimates essential for this result. Moreover, the estimates proved here suffice to establish the main result in an important special case.