Iran, 6 world powers reach historical nuclear deal

2015-07-14 10:53

Vienna - Foreign ministers from six world powers and Iran finally achieved an agreement Tuesday to prevent the Islamic republic from developing nuclear weapons, Western diplomats said in Vienna.

In return for limiting Iran's nuclear activities, the tight web of Western economic sanctions that has been spun around Iran will be lifted, allowing the Middle Eastern power to end its diplomatic isolation.

The agreement reached in Vienna came after a dozen years in which world powers coaxed and coerced Tehran to make nuclear concessions, with a mixture of negotiations and sanctions.

Concerns by the five UN veto powers Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - plus Germany, were fuelled by revelations in 2002 of a secretly built uranium enrichment plant, and by intelligence findings indicating that nuclear weapons research was carried out until around 2003.

Under the Vienna agreement, Iran will have to reduce the number of centrifuges used for uranium enrichment from 19 000 to 6 100, and to reduce its stock of enriched uranium from 10 tons to 300 kilogrammes.

In addition, a scientific and medical reactor will be reconfigured, so that it cannot turn out plutonium as a by-product.

These curbs, together with intrusive international inspections, would prevent Iran from misusing plutonium waste or uranium reactor fuel for making warheads.

In return, US and EU embargoes against Iran's oil exports and its international banking ties will be lifted.

Wealth and influence

The Islamic republic will also be able to access oil revenues held in foreign accounts, which had been frozen as part of the sanctions measures, and which has a value of at least 100 billion dollars.

The nuclear curbs and sanctions steps were agreed on already in April in Lausanne.

However, both sides had negotiated until the last moment on various politically sensitive details, including the exact sequence and timing of the steps that each side has to take.

Oil-rich Iran has been suffering from an economic crisis because of the embargoes. Moderate President Hassan Rowhani has linked his political future on the nuclear deal by promising voters to get sanctions lifted as soon as possible.

US President Barack Obama also took high risk when he decided to back the agreement with the United States' long-time foe, given the strong headwinds from hawks in US Congress.

US legislators will now have two months to review the deal, in a complex process that could delay its implementation.

Ties between Washington and Tehran were frozen after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the hostage-taking of 52 US diplomats in Tehran, and the deal could mark the start of a slow thaw.

"It's clear to me that if an agreement is successfully reached, satisfactory to everybody, a conversation might be able to begin," US Secretary of State John Kerry recently told the Boston Globe.

The sextet hopes that the nuclear deal can help reduce tensions in the Middle East, where Iran is directly or indirect involved in various conflicts.

Increased international and regional co-operation on fighting ISIS would be one of the main benefits of the deal, Kerry has said.

However, Washington's regional allies, Israel and Arab Gulf countries worry that their rival Iran will now gain wealth and influence in the conflict-laden Middle East.

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