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Obama: Nuclear deal blocks Iran's path to bomb

By Jamey Keaten & John Heilprin

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 08:46 a.m. HST, Nov 24, 2013

GENEVA >> Iran struck a historic deal with the United States and five other world powers, agreeing to a temporary freeze of its nuclear program in the most significant agreement between Washington and Tehran in more than three decades of estrangement.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani endorsed the agreement, which commits Iran to curb its nuclear activities for six months in exchange for limited and gradual sanctions relief, including access to $4.2 billion from oil sales. The six-month period will give diplomats time to negotiate a more sweeping agreement.

It builds on the momentum of the public dialogue opened during September's annual U.N. gathering, which included a 15-minute phone conversation between President Barack Obama and moderate-leaning Rouhani, who was elected in June.

The package includes freezing Iran's ability to enrich uranium at a maximum 5 percent level, which is well below the threshold for weapons-grade material and is aimed at easing Western concerns that Tehran could one day seek nuclear arms.

Obama hailed the pact's provisions, which include curbs on Iran's enrichment and other projects that could be used to make nuclear arms, as key to preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear threat.

"Simply put, they cut off Iran's most likely paths to a bomb," he told reporters in Washington.

For Iran, keeping the enrichment program active was a critical goal. Iran's leaders view the country's ability to make nuclear fuel as a source of national pride and an essential part of its insistence at nuclear self-sufficiency.

Giving up too much on the enrichment program would have likely brought a storm of protest by Iranian hard-liners, who were already uneasy over the marathon nuclear talks and Rouhani's outreach to Washington.

In a nationally broadcast speech, Rouhani said the accord recognizes Iran's "nuclear rights" even if that precise language was kept from the final document because of Western resistance.

"No matter what interpretations are given, Iran's right to enrichment has been recognized," said Rouhani, who later posed with family members of nuclear scientists killed in slayings in recent years that Iran has blamed on Israel and allies.

Saying "trust is a two-way street," Rouhani insisted that talks on a comprehensive agreement should start immediately.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who led his country's delegation, called on both sides to see the agreement as an "opportunity to end an unnecessary crisis and open new horizons."

But initial reaction in Israel was strongly negative. Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called the deal, a "historic mistake."

Speaking to his Cabinet, Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel is not bound by the deal and reserves the right to defend itself. That is a reference to possible military action against Iran.

Netanyahu has said the international community is giving up too much to Iran, which it believes will retain the ability to produce a nuclear weapon and threaten Israel.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who joined the final negotiations along with the foreign ministers of Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, said the pact will make U.S. allies in the Middle East, including Israel, safer reducing the threat of war.

"Agreement in Geneva," he tweeted. "First step makes world safer. More work now."

The deal marks a milestone between the two countries, which broke diplomatic ties 34 years ago when Iran's Islamic revolution climaxed in the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Since then, relations between the two countries had been frigid to hostile.

Although the deal lowered tensions between the two countries, friction points remain -- notably Iran's support of the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad. The United States also has said Iran supports terrorism throughout the region and commits widespread human rights violations.

The Geneva negotiations followed secret face-to-face talks between the U.S. and Iran over the past year, The Associated Press has learned. The discussions, held in the Persian Gulf nation of Oman and elsewhere, were kept hidden even from America's closest allies, including its negotiating partners and Israel, until two months ago.

A 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.

The statement also said the accord curbs the number and capabilities of the centrifuges used to enrich and limits Iran ability to "produce weapons-grade plutonium" from a reactor in the advanced stages of construction.

The statement also said Iran's nuclear program will be subject to "increased transparency and intrusive monitoring."

"Taken together, these first step measures will help prevent Iran from using the cover of negotiations to continue advancing its nuclear program as we seek to negotiate a long-term, comprehensive solution that addresses all of the international community's concerns," said the statement.

Since it was revealed in 2003, Iran's enrichment program has grown from a few dozen enriching centrifuges to more than 18,000 installed and more than 10,000 operating. The machines have produced tons of low-enriched uranium, which can be turned into weapons grade material.

Iran also has stockpiled almost 440 pounds of higher-enriched uranium in a form that can be converted more quickly to fissile warhead material than the low-enriched uranium. Its supply is nearly enough for one bomb.

In return for Iran's nuclear curbs, the White House 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 will be revoked and new penalties enacted if Iran fails to meet its commitments.

Kerry said the relief offered would give Iran access to $4.2 billion from oil sales. Approximately $1.5 billion more would come from imports of gold and other precious metals, petrochemical exports and Iran's auto sector, as well as easier access to "humanitarian transactions."

"The core sanctions architecture ... remains firmly in place through these six months, including with respect to oil and financial services," Kerry said. He said those sanctions will result in more than $25 billion in lost oil revenues over six months.

Those conditions are being highlighted by the U.S. administration in its efforts to demonstrate that Iran is still in pain. The administration has urged Congress to hold off on any new sanctions and give the accord a chance to prove its worth.

But one influential member of Congress was quick to criticize the deal.

Rep. 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."

Obama hailed the deal as putting "substantial limitations" on a nuclear program that the United States and its allies fear could be turned to nuclear weapons use.

"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 program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back."

Iran's currency, the rial, got a small boost after news of the deal, strengthening to about 29,000 rials against the U.S. dollar, compared with about 29,950 in recent days.


Associated Press writers George Jahn and Deb Riechmann in Geneva, Julie Pace in Washington, Robert H. Reid in Berlin and Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.

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allie wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on November 24,2013 | 08:54AM
Waimanalodayz1 wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on November 24,2013 | 12:37PM
hanalei395 wrote:
That Wise Man should have been around during the 1980's. Ronald Reagan called the Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan, ... "freedom fighters".
on November 24,2013 | 04:41PM
Ronin006 wrote:
Yes, allie, give peace a chance. British Prime Minister Chamberlain gave peace a chance when he made a deal with Hitler in 1938 to avert war in Europe. If you know anything about history, World War II soon followed because Hitler could not be trusted to keep the deal. It is the way dictators and dictatorial governments act.
on November 24,2013 | 06:30PM
SteveToo wrote:
How S-T-U-P-I-D are these world leaders? This will give Iran money and time to keep going on the bomb. "Give peace a chance", allie you are as S-T-U-P-I-D as those so called leaders. War will come sooner than you think w/this deal.
on November 24,2013 | 09:08AM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
Just a first step in a long and difficult road ahead. Poor Israel; they are so upset their the US, who Israel believes is their own attack dog, went off the leash and started down a diplomatic path along with the rest of the international community..
on November 24,2013 | 09:09AM
SteveToo wrote:
This is gonna "blow up" in someone's face.
on November 24,2013 | 09:42AM
cojef wrote:
Shades of pre-war WW II, when the English diplomat Neville Chamberlain visited Berlin to placate Adolfo Hitler by appeasement. Soon thereafter Hitler invaded Poland which later involved the whole of Europe. The sanctions imposed thus far has impacted and begun to work. It wreaked havoc with the Iranian economy and their people began to display their frustrations. The change in the leadership manifested the fact that changes was needed to appease the local citizens. Now by relaxing the the sanction for 6 months, the allies are enabling the Iranians to strengthening their bargaining capabilities. Appeasement has never worked and history has attested to this. Further after 6 months what is the next step? During this time, they will cheat on their nuclear enrichment plan and then it will be too late to do anything about. The "Genie" will be out of the bag and with their nuclear capability will demand further demands to continue to lift the sanctions permanently. The Union will than have to back off. So, Iran jockeyed the Union into a no win situation. The only salvation for West is that the Isareli bomb the heck on Iran and alone face the consequence that the international Community created. The International Community has failed to acknowledge the fact they are responsible for the creation of the Iranian regime by aiding and deposing of the Shah to exile and returning the Ayatollah from exile himself from France. This is the same regime that attacked our Embassy in Teheran and imprisoned our staff for a number of years . Lest we forget.
on November 24,2013 | 10:59AM
eoe wrote:
Complete misreading of history.
on November 24,2013 | 11:22AM
hanalei395 wrote:
"for a number of years. Lest we forget" ......... You forgot. It was 444 days.
on November 24,2013 | 04:48PM
Steve96785 wrote:
Peace in our time! Sounds familiar. Keep a close watch on the nuclear monitors.
on November 24,2013 | 11:11AM
pandadaddy wrote:
Barry, stop being so naive.
on November 24,2013 | 11:21AM
palani wrote:
middleofdasea wrote:
Why should we believe Barry???!!?!? I like my plan and my Doctor
on November 24,2013 | 12:31PM
eoe wrote:
By the same logic you should never believe your parents again because they lied to you about santa claus.
on November 24,2013 | 02:17PM
middleofdasea wrote:
My parents didn't raise my health cost. Keep drinking the kool aid
on November 24,2013 | 08:51PM
inverse wrote:
Bill Clinton struck a similar deal with N Korea in exchange to lift sanctions and provide money and aid to North Korea. North Korea behind the US and the worlds back continued to develop nuclear technology all the while diverting the aid to their military and their leader and his weapons research program. The hate between Jews and Muslims is so ingrained that as long as Israel has nuclear weapons that was 'given' them by the US, Iran and the muslims around the world will NEVER stop striving to attain nuclear technology and weapons.
on November 24,2013 | 04:32PM
mitt_grund wrote:
Goes deeper than that. Ever see a Spaniard shudder about the occupation of their lands in the 11th century AD by Muslims. From the time of El Cid, mutual massacres of Christian and Muslim populations occurred. A never-ending story.

Current bad-taste is due to the unilateral creation of Israel by the British-led Western nations, depositing them in their biblical homeland, and displacing millions of so-called "Palestinians", whom the Israelis claim were squatters, anyway, on their historical home grounds.

Remember, the Israelis were dispersed and scattered in the great Jewish Diaspora after their Babylonian captivity. Hmmm, Babylonia, the forerunner of the Persian and Iraq nations. That's a long, long time for hatred to fester. Like North and South Korea, Israel and the Middle East have been on a war-footing since the re-creation of the Israeli nation, not that they ever liked each other. And have you ever seen a conservative, fire-and-brimstone Christian ever profess love for a Muslim, or a Jew, or a Buddhist, for that matter. Hate runs deep.

on November 25,2013 | 08:30AM
scooters wrote:
Another colossal mistake made by this BOZO! 2016 can't come soon enough.
on November 24,2013 | 07:57PM
mitt_grund wrote:
See where the price of oil has dropped in anticipation of more Iranian oil on the market. Can't make BP, Exxon, Chevron or Halliburton happy, or the Bush/Cheneys who are heavily vested in the oil industry. Probably are screaming at their highly subsidized Republican congressmen as to how they could have let this happen.

They've got 6 months to undo the agreement and bring oil prices back up. Probably encouraging Netanyahu to make a preventive nuclear attack on Teheran.

KA-BOOOOOM. WW III. ...wars are always great for the economy...when the bombs are falling, who cares what it costs? Wars are great users of oil and oil derivatives. It's always the aftermath when realization sinks in that the national debt has increased ten-fold.

Refrain of Bomb, bomb, bomb ... Bomb, bomb Iran heard in the background.

on November 25,2013 | 08:03AM
DAGR81 wrote:
Obama has been outwitted again.
on November 25,2013 | 09:32AM
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