Concern over Iran nuke deal

2015-04-03 07:52


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Lausanne - Iran and six world powers took a major step towards mending their relations on Thursday by agreeing on the key points of a deal in Lausanne designed to end the controversy over Tehran's nuclear programme.

"Today, the United States, together with our allies and partners, has reached a historic understanding with Iran, which, if fully implemented, will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon," US President Barack Obama said at the White House.

However, several months of additional negotiations lie ahead to work out technical and legal details. Both sides aim to reach a final deal by the end of June.

After 12 years of on-and-off talks, Iran and the group of Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany agreed on significantly scaling down Tehran's civilian nuclear programme for a core period of 10 years.

Some parts of Iran's nuclear programme will be placed under strict International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections for 25 years, while a general intrusive inspection regime will be in place permanently.

"There will be no sunset to the deal," US Secretary of State John Kerry said in Lausanne.

His Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, stressed that the agreement would not fully shut down the nuclear programme, especially not the uranium enrichment plants that are a source of pride for Iran's leaders.

US and German foreign ministry documents showed that the size of the enrichment programme would be reduced by two-thirds.

In addition, the Arak reactor that is still under construction will be rebuilt so that it cannot produce weapons-grade plutonium as a side product.

Since Iran's nuclear programme came to light in 2002, world powers have been concerned that it could use enriched uranium or plutonium for weapons.

Zarif stressed that his country's nuclear activities "will always remain peaceful."

Reaction from Israel was critical of the announcement from Lausanne. A government spokesperson called it "a bad framework that will lead to a bad and dangerous deal." An agreement based on the framework "would be an historic mistake which will transform the world into a much more dangerous place".

The White House said US President Barack Obama phoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the agreement.

"The President emphasized that, while nothing is agreed until everything is, the framework represents significant progress towards a lasting, comprehensive solution that cuts off all of Iran's pathways to a bomb," a White House statement said.

Obama told Netanyahu that progress on the nuclear issue "in no way diminishes" US concerns over Iran's sponsorship of terrorism and threats towards Israel.

By scrapping sanctions on oil exports, technology trade and international financial transactions, the agreement could help end Iran's economic crisis.

It could also end Tehran's diplomatic isolation, which started after the 1979 Islamic revolution and has deepened over the course of the nuclear dispute.

Iran's relations with the US are especially tense.

"I hope through implementation of this, some of the distrust could be remedied," Zarif said.

"If we can eliminate this question of the nuclear issue, it begins at some point to conceivably provide an opportunity for change," Kerry said.

Tehran's religious leaders support various enemies of the United States and Israel, including the Lebanese Hezbollah movement and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said a final nuclear deal could ease some of the tensions in the region.

"It would be the first and only conflict in the Middle East that we would be able to defuse," he said in Lausanne.

Israel and Arab countries have expressed concern that a nuclear deal could further boost Iran's influence in the region, but Steinmeier argued that closer ties between Iran and world powers could also help defuse tensions.

Despite the progress that the foreign ministers of Iran and the group of six made in their eight days of talks in Switzerland, a final deal is not yet secured.

Opposition hard-liners in Iran and in the US have little trust in rebuilding relations and begrudge their respective government's foreign policy success.

Appealing to members of US Congress who have been threatening to impose additional sanctions against Iran, Kerry asked that they "continue to give us time and space that we need to fully explain the political agreement we have reached".

Read more on:    us  |  russia  |  britain  |  china  |  germany  |  france  |  iran  |  israel  |  security  |  nuclear

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