US-Iran reach accord on nuclear talks
Washington must now look after strained ties with its Middle East ally Israel.
- Iran nuclear programme
- Iran nuclear plant
- US President Barack Obamas administration
- John Kerry
- United States Secretary of State John Kerry
- Iran US ties
- Nuclear plant builder
- Iran president
- USIran reach an accord on nuclear talks
- Israel conflict with Iran
- Mohammad Javad Zarif
- Benjamin Netanyahu undergoes surgery
GENEVA - President Barack Obama has pulled off an historic deal with Iran on curbing its nuclear programme but he and other global leaders now have tough work ahead turning an interim accord into a comprehensive agreement.
In a sign of how difficult the coming talks will be, some differences emerged between US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart in their public presentation of a key part of the deal - whether or not Iran preserved the right to enrich uranium.
Obama also has to persuade its ally Israel, whose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the deal as an "historic mistake", that the accord will reduce and not increase the threat from its arch foe Iran. And he has to sell the accord to sceptics in Congress, including some in his own Democratic Party, who have been pressing for more sanctions on Iran.
The breakthrough accord was reached in the middle of the night at talks in Geneva between Iran, the US, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany. It won the critical endorsement of Iranian clerical Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini and marked a clear turn in a US relationship with Iran that has been fraught since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and vexed for years over the Iranian nuclear programme.
But nobody doubted that tough work lies ahead in moving on from the initial deal that allows a six-month period of limits to Iran's nuclear programme in exchange for up to $7 billion worth of sanctions relief, while leaving both the program and the sanctions in place.
"Now the really hard part begins and that is the effort to get the comprehensive agreement, which will require enormous steps in terms of verification, transparency and accountability," Kerry said as he began a meeting with British Foreign Minister William Hague in London.
The agreement, which halts Iran's most sensitive nuclear activity, was tailored as a package of confidence-building steps towards reducing decades of tension and ultimately creating a more stable, secure Middle East.
Iranian Foreign Minister and chief negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif flew home from Geneva to a welcoming crowd, a reflection of the relief felt by many Iranians exhausted by isolation and sanctions that have been particularly punishing in the last two years.
Zarif said in an interview broadcast on state television that Iran would move quickly to start implementing the agreement and it was ready to begin talks on a final accord.
Sunday's agreement said Iran and the major powers aimed to reach a final deal that would "involve a mutually defined enrichment programme with mutually agreed parameters consistent with practical needs, with agreed limits on scope and level of enrichment activities".
Speaking on Iran's Press TV, Zarif said the deal was an opportunity for the West to restore trust with Iran, adding Tehran would expand cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, to address what he called some concerns.
However, on the ABC News program This Week, Kerry stressed that such a right would be limited and would come about as a result of future negotiations.
He said that under the terms of the agreement, "there will be a negotiation over whether or not they could have a very limited, completely verifiable, extraordinarily constrained program, where they might have some medical research or other things they can do, but there is no inherent right to enrich...".
CRITICS AT HOME AND ABROAD
Obama telephoned Netanyahu to reassure him that Washington would continue to stand by Israel and to suggest that the US and Israel should quickly start consultations on the Iranian nuclear issue.
Obama - who raised the idea of a rapprochement with Iran when he was campaigning ahead of his first presidential election win in 2008 - will also have to deal with critics at home.
Democrats such as Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey made clear that any new sanctions would include a six-month window before they took effect. That would allow time to see if Iran is sticking by the pact.
The agreement does not need to be ratified by Congress and Obama is using his executive power to temporarily suspend some existing US sanctions on Iran.
The deal halts Iran's progress on its nuclear programme, including construction of the Arak research reactor. It will neutralise Iran's stockpile of uranium refined to a fissile concentration of 20 percent.
In return the accord grants about $7 billion in potential relief from sanctions. It will allow a potential access to $1.5 billion in trade in gold and precious metals and the suspension of some sanctions on Iran's auto sector and petrochemical exports, and also give Iran access to some $4.2 billion in sales from its reduced oil exports.