Middle East

Iran nuclear deal makes Mid-East safer place - Kerry

  • 25 November 2013
  • From the section Middle East
  • comments

The US secretary of state has said the deal reached on Sunday over Iran's nuclear programme will make Israel and the Middle East a safer place.

John Kerry was speaking after Iran agreed to curb some of its nuclear activities in return for about $7bn (£4.3bn) in sanctions relief.

However, Israel has described the agreement as a "historic mistake".

Iran's president said its right to uranium enrichment had been recognised, but Mr Kerry denied this.

Tehran has, however, agreed to stop all enrichment above 5%.

World powers suspect Iran's nuclear programme is secretly aiming at developing a nuclear bomb - a charge Iran has consistently denied.

The deal reached overnight in Geneva will last for six months, while a permanent agreement is sought.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said it "demonstrates how persistent diplomacy and tough sanctions can together help us to advance our national interest".

US President Barack Obama welcomed the deal, saying it would "help prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon".

'Larger breathing space'

The White House says President Obama has spoken by telephone to Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu about the Iran deal.

President Obama said Israel had "good reason to be sceptical about Iran's intentions", a White House spokesman said.

The two leaders reaffirmed their shared goal of preventing Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon, the spokesman said.

Earlier, Mr Kerry told ABC's This Week programme that the US and Israel shared the same goal, and that the deal was a first step in making sure Iran could not have nuclear weapons.

"It leads us into the negotiation so that we guarantee that ... while we are negotiating for the tougher provisions, they will not grow the programme and their capacity to threaten Israel," he said.

"Israel will actually gain a larger breathing space in terms of the breakout capacity [to make a nuclear weapon] of Iran."

The US secretary of state added that he hoped Congress would recognise the benefits of the deal and refrain from passing new sanctions.

However, leading Republican Senator Bob Corker said he had concerns about the deal and promised to hold the administration's "feet to the fire".

"This administration is long on announcements but very short on follow-through," he said in an interview for Fox News Sunday.

Senator Charles Schumer, from President Obama's Democratic party, was also disappointed by the Geneva agreement, which he said favoured Iran.

"As for additional sanctions, this disproportionality of this agreement makes it more likely that Democrats and Republicans will join together and pass additional sanctions when we return in December," he said in a statement.

Key points of the deal include:

  • Iran will stop enriching uranium beyond 5%, and "neutralise" its stockpile of uranium enriched beyond this point
  • Iran will give greater access to inspectors including daily access at the Natanz and Fordo nuclear sites
  • There will be no further development of the Arak plant which it is believed could produce plutonium
  • In return, there will be no new nuclear-related sanctions for six months if Iran sticks by the accord
  • Iran will also receive sanctions relief worth about $7bn (£4.3bn) on sectors including precious metals

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet it was a "historic mistake" and that his country would not be bound by the agreement.

"We cannot and will not allow a regime that calls for the destruction of Israel to obtain the means to achieve this goal.

"Israel has many friends and allies, but when they're mistaken, it's my duty to speak out."

The Israeli comments came as it was revealed that the US and Iran had held a series of face-to-face talks in recent months that paved the way for the agreement but were kept secret even from their allies.

The talks were personally authorised by President Obama, AP reports, quoting senior US administration officials.

In a nationwide broadcast on Sunday, President Rouhani repeated that his country would never seek a nuclear weapon.

He hailed the deal, saying it met one of Iran's fundamental principles.

"No matter what interpretations are given, Iran's right to enrichment has been recognised," he said.

Tehran insists it must be allowed to enrich uranium to use in power stations.

The deal comes just months after Iran elected Mr Rouhani - regarded as a relative moderate - as its new president, succeeding the hardline Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

It has also been backed by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in nuclear matters.

After four days of negotiations, representatives of the so-called P5+1 group of nations - the US, the UK, Russia, China, France and Germany - reached the agreement with Iran in the early hours of Sunday.