Every single path Iran could take to a N-bomb cut off: Barack Obama

Hailing the implementation of the landmark Iranian nuclear deal as a "milestone", US President Barack Obama on Sunday said every single path that Iran could have taken to build a nuclear bomb has been cut off.

PTI| Updated: Jan 18, 2016, 00:26 AM IST

Washington: Hailing the implementation of the landmark Iranian nuclear deal as a "milestone", US President Barack Obama on Sunday said every single path that Iran could have taken to build a nuclear bomb has been cut off.

Obama said this was a good day as engaging directly with Tehran has created "unique opportunities".

"Yesterday marked a milestone in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Most of all, we achieved this historic result through diplomacy, without risking another war in the Middle East," Obama said in a televised statement from the White House.

"This is a good day, because once again we're seeing what's possible with strong American diplomacy. For decades, our differences with Iran meant that our governments almost never spoke to each other. Ultimately that did not advance America's interests," he said.

Noting that the US has never been afraid to pursue diplomacy with adversaries, Obama said he decided that a strong, confident America could advance its national security by engaging directly with the Iranian government.

"We've seen the results," Obama said. In a side agreement, Iran released five Americans held captive, and Obama agreed to grant clemency to seven Iranians held in the United States.

"I gave these families my word and a vow that we would do everything in our power to win the release of their loved ones. And we have been tireless," Obama said.

"After the nuclear deal was completed, the discussions between out governments accelerated. Yesterday these families finally got the news they'd been waiting for," he said referring to the US nationals who have been released by Iran.

Iran has agreed to deepen our coordination in the search for Robert Levinson, missing for more than eight years, he added.

Obama talked about three major developments that diplomacy had achieved. The first two being the implementation of the nuclear deal and the freeing of the Americans imprisoned in Iran, including Washington Post reporter correspondent Jason Rezaian, and the third was the settlement of a years-long lawsuit between Iran and the US.

Obama said the third piece resolved this weekend involved the US and Iran settling a financial dispute dating back more than three decades, he said.

"Since 1981, after our nations severed diplomatic relations, we've worked through a international tribunal to resolve various claims between our countries," Obama said.

"The United States and Iran are now settling a longstanding Iranian government claim against the United States government. Iran will be returned its own funds, including appropriate interest, but much less than the amount Iran sought," he said.

Under the agreement, the US is to repay Iran a USD 400 million debt and USD 1.3 billion in interest dating to the Islamic revolution.

"For the United States, this settlement could save us billions of dollars that could have been pursued by Iran. So there was no benefit to the United States in dragging this out. With the nuclear deal done, prisoners released, the time was right to resolve this dispute as well," Obama said.

While hailing the curbs on the Iranian nuclear programme, Obama also struck a note of caution, stating that it does not mean that all differences with Iran had been resolved.

Obama said "profound differences" remain with Iran over its "destabilising behavior" and posing of threat to Israel.

The Obama administration today announced new penalties on 11 individuals and entities involved in Tehran's ballistic missile programme.

"We remain steadfast in opposing Iran's destabilising behaviour elsewhere, including its threats against Israel and our Gulf partners, and its support for violent proxies in places like Syria and Yemen," he said.

"We still have sanctions on Iran for its violations of human rights, for its support of terrorism, and for its ballistic missile program. And we will continue to enforce these sanctions, vigorously. Iran's recent missile test, for example, was a violation of its international obligations," he added.

Obama said the US is imposing sanctions on individuals and companies working to advance Iran's ballistic missile program.

"And we are going to remain vigilant about it. We're not going to waver in the defense of our security or that of our allies and partners," he said.