Agreement reached on Iran`s N-programme, Obama hails deal

Iran on Sunday struck a landmark deal with the world powers to slow it`s controversial nuclear programme in return for about USD 7 billion in sanctions relief, an agreement hailed by US President Barack Obama as "an important first step" to prevent Tehran from acquiring an atomic weapon.

PTI| Updated: Nov 24, 2013, 16:11 PM IST

Washington/Geneva: Iran on Sunday struck a landmark deal with the world powers to slow it`s controversial nuclear programme in return for about USD 7 billion in sanctions relief, an agreement hailed by US President Barack Obama as "an important first step" to prevent Tehran from acquiring an atomic weapon.
Capping four days of negotiations, representatives of the P5+1 group of nations - the US, the UK, Russia, China, France and Germany - reached an agreement with Iran in the early hours in Geneva. The deal was formally announced by Catherine Ashton, the EU`s foreign policy chief.

Under the deal, Iran agreed to give better access to inspectors and halt some of its work on uranium enrichment. But Iranian negotiators insisted they still had a right to nuclear power.

In return, there will be no new nuclear-related sanctions on Iran for six months.

Iran will also stop enriching uranium beyond 5 per cent, the level at which it can be used for weapons research, and reduce its stockpile of uranium enriched beyond this point.

Iran will also receive sanctions relief worth about USD 7billion on sectors including precious metals.

The agreement -- described as an "initial, six-month" deal -- includes "substantial limitations that will help prevent Iran from creating a nuclear weapon," US President Barack Obama said in a nationally televised address.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who joined the talks in Geneva yesterday, said the agreement would make the region safer for its allies, including Israel.

"Today, the US - together with our close allies and partners - took an important first step toward a comprehensive solution that addresses our concerns with the Islamic Republic of Iran`s nuclear programme," Obama said.

"The first step that we`ve taken today marks the most significant and tangible progress that we`ve made with Iran since I took office," said the US President.

The deal addresses Iran`s ability to enrich uranium, what to do about its existing enriched uranium stockpiles, the number and potential of its centrifuges and Tehran`s "ability to produce weapons-grade plutonium using the Arak reactor," according to a statement released by the White House.

"Today, that diplomacy opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure -- a future in which we can verify that Iran`s nuclear programme is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon," Obama said.

"While today`s announcement is just a first step, it achieves a great deal. 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," Obama said.

He said the burden is now on Iran to prove to the world that its nuclear programme will be exclusively for peaceful purposes.

"If Iran seizes this opportunity, the Iranian people will benefit from rejoining the international community, and we can begin to chip away at the mistrust between our two nations. This would provide Iran with a dignified path to forge a new beginning with the wider world based on mutual respect," Obama said.

"If, on the other hand, Iran refuses, it will face growing pressure and isolation," he warned.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who joined the talks in Geneva yesterday, said the agreement would make the region safer for its allies, including Israel.

Iran`s President Hassan Rouhani hailed the agreement, saying it would "open new horizons".

"Constructive engagement (in addition to) tireless efforts by negotiating teams are to open new horizons," Rouhani tweeted.

Iran`s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said it was an opportunity for the "removal of any doubts about the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran`s nuclear programme".

"This is only the first step," Zarif said but insisted that Iran had not given up its right to enrich uranium.

"We believe that the current agreement, the current plan of action as we call it, in two distinct places has a very clear reference to the fact that Iranian enrichment programme will continue and will be a part of any agreement, now and in the future," he said.

But the Israeli government criticised the deal and said Israel did not feel bound by it.

"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," said a statement issued by the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Countries like India would have to continue reducing oil imports from Iran despite the deal.