Iran, World Powers Reach Deal
Iran and six world powers have reached a deal regarding Iran’s nuclear program, after hours of talks in Geneva.
The European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief, Catherine Ashton, announced early Sunday morning that an agreement has been reached between Iran and the group known as the P5+1.
France's Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, confirmed as well that a deal has been reached. Iran's Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, tweeted as well that "we have reached an agreement."
Details of the agreement have not yet fully been made public but some reports said that the six-month agreement will have Iran freeze some of its nuclear activities in exchange for partial and limited relief of the sanctions that have been imposed on it.
It was also reported that under the agreement, Iran will be able to continue to enrich uranium to a level 3.5%, but will not be allowed to add to its stockpile of enriched uranium, and would have to move some of its enriched material to a third country.
Speaking after the deal was announced, U.S. President Barack Obama said it was an "important first step" toward addressing the world's concerns over the Islamic republic's disputed nuclear program.
He added that the deal includes "substantial limitations" on Iran and cuts off the Islamic republic's most likely path to a bomb. The President added that Iran would have to prove to the world that its nuclear program is peaceful and said that if it fails to comply with the terms of the agreement, the pressure on it would increase and the sanctions would resume.
Officials in his administration confirmed to CNN the deal with Iran halts progress on its nuclear program, provides for intrusive inspections and neutralizes Iran's stockpile of 20% enriched uranium.
"We think we have a good strong arrangement," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told CNN following the announcement of the deal.
Kerry later told reporters at a news conference in Geneva that the deal will help "make Israel safer".
"The comprehensive agreement will make the world safer ... and Israel safer," Kerry said.
The deal came after an earlier report that it may not happen due to Tehran's continued insistence that it retain the ability to enrich uranium.
Emerging after day-long talks in Geneva on Saturday, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told reporters that the talks had achieved “98 percent progress,” but that Tehran would not accept any agreement that does not recognize what it considers its right to enrich uranium, a demand the United States and its European allies have repeatedly rejected.
"In the past 10 years, Iran has resisted economic and political pressures and sanctions aimed at abandoning its enrichment activities," Araqchi said, according to NBC News.
"Therefore,” he added, “any agreement without recognizing Iran's right to enrich, practically and verbally, will be unacceptable for Tehran."
Talks aimed at achieving a draft of a six-month deal to freeze parts of Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief continued after Araqchi’s remarks, giving a glimmer of hope that an agreement could be hammered out before the negotiations recess.
It was unclear if the talks would extend into Sunday as U.S. State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said Kerry still planned to travel to London on Sunday for meetings on other issues in the Middle East.
In addition to Kerry, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi were also in the Swiss city, along with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman.
Diplomatic sources told NBC News that under the draft agreement under discussion, Iran would agree to a temporary freeze of its nuclear program and, in return, would get up to $7 billion in economic sanctions relief, by the unfreezing of assets.
Earlier, Hague said "narrow gaps" remain on the same issues that blocked agreement at the last round earlier this month.
"We're not here because things are necessarily finished," Hague told reporters on Saturday. "We're here because they're difficult, and they remain difficult."
Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle spoke of "a realistic chance" for a deal "but there is still a lot of work to do."
Iran has consistently declared that it will never give up on its right to enrich uranium, though Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said last week that Iran would not insist that others recognize this right.
On Friday, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani called on the West to ignore Israel’s warnings over the deal.
"The world powers should reach an independent decision that is disconnected from Israel’s position," he tweeted.
"Israel is only concerned about its own interests, and it does not think about the interests of the world,” he charged.
Meanwhile, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett delivered one of Israel's clearest warnings to date on Saturday evening, regarding the possibility that the Jewish state would strike Iran's nuclear weapons facilities.
If a deal leaves Iran with the ability to "break out" and produce nuclear weapons in a period of six weeks, "we will not be able to sit quietly," he told Channel 2.