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Asia-pacific

Iran strikes landmark nuclear deal with world powers

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-11-24

Iran reached a landmark agreement on Sunday with world powers, agreeing to limit its nuclear activities in exchange for eased sanctions. Israel, meanwhile, says the deal ‘gives up too much to Iran’.

Iran on Sunday struck a breakthrough deal with the United States and five world powers, committing to halt the expansion of its uranium enrichment programme and roll back parts of its key nuclear activities in exchange for a limited easing of sanctions.

The interim agreement, which a White House statement called an “initial, six-month step”, is the most significant development between Washington and Tehran in more than three decades of estrangement between the two nations.

Obama: 'A first step'

Although Obama hailed the deal for putting “substantial limitations” on a nuclear programme that the United States and its allies fear could be turned against them, Israel reacted with outrage, criticizing the international community for giving Iran too much.

"This is a bad agreement that gives Iran what it wanted: the partial lifting of sanctions while maintaining an essential part of its nuclear programme," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said.

Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is responsible for monitoring Iran’s nuclear programme, simply said the accord is based on “Iranian deception and self-delusion.”

Meanwhile, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said the agreement would "open new horizons," insisting that the outcome was a recognition of ”Iran’s nuclear rights” and that the country’s enrichment activities would proceed in a manner ”similar to the past”

Ashton: 'An important agreement'

Under the deal, Iran is committed to curbing its nuclear activities in exchange for limited and gradual sanctions relief.

Obama said the deal’s provisions are key to preventing the expansion of Iran’s nuclear weapons programme. ‘’Simply put, they cut off Iran’s most likely paths to a bomb,” he told reporters.

Diplomatic ties between the two countries were cut off 34 years ago when Iran’s Islamic revolution climaxed in the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Since then, relations have been frigid to hostile – until the recent (and relative) rapprochement between the two presidents.

Rolling back key parts of the programme

“While today’s announcement is just a first step, it achieves a great deal, “Obama said. “For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear programme, and key parts of the programme will be rolled back.”

Although the deal lowered tensions some, frictional points remain – notably Iran’s support for the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad. The United States has accused Iran of supporting terrorism throughout the region and of widespread human rights violations.

Specifically, the White House statement said the deal limits Iran’s existing stockpiles of enriched uranium, which can be turned into the fissile core of nuclear arms. It detailed how the accord would curb the number and capabilities of the centrifuges used to enrich uranarm and limit Iran’s ability to “produce weapons-grade plutonium” from a reactor in the advanced stages of construction.

The statement also said Iran’s nuclear programme would be subject to “increased transparency and intrusive monitoring.”

Rouhani: World regognises 'Iran's nuclear rights'

“Taken together, these first-step measures will help prevent Iran from using the cover of negotiations to continue advancing its nuclear programme as we seek to negotiate a long-term, comprehensive solution that addresses all of the international community’s concerns,” it concluded.

Sanctions partially lifted

In return, the statement promised “limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible (sanctions) relief” to Iran, noting that “the key oil, banking, and financial sanctions architecture, remains in place.” And it said any limited sanctions relief would be revoked and new penalties enacted if Iran fails to meet its commitments.

Those conditions have been highlighted by the Obama administration in its efforts to persuade Congress to hold off on any new sanctions and give the Iran accord a chance to prove its worth. But one influential member of Congress was quick to criticize the deal.

Ed Royce, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed ‘’serious concerns,” saying the United States was “relieving Iran of the sanctions pressure built up over years,” while allowing Tehran to ‘’keep the key elements of its nuclear weapons-making capacity.”

Royce called on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to ‘’address the many concerns with this agreement” in front of the committee.

Kerry flew to Geneva on Saturday, joining forces with foreign ministers of the nations negotiating with Iran to push the deal through early Sunday, as the negotiations entered their fifth day.

“Agreement in Geneva,” Kerry tweeted. “First step makes world safer. More work now.”

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP, REUTERS)

 

Date created : 2013-11-24

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