published Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

Iran nuclear deal reached in 5th day of talks (with Obama's statement)

President Barack Obama speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House Saturday Nov. 23, 2013, in Washington about the nuclear deal between six world powers and Iran that calls on Tehran to limit its nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief.
President Barack Obama speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House Saturday Nov. 23, 2013, in Washington about the nuclear deal between six world powers and Iran that calls on Tehran to limit its nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

President Barack Obama's statement Saturday night on the interim nuclear deal reached with Iran, as provided by the White House:

Good evening. Today, the United States — together with our close allies and partners — took an important first step toward a comprehensive solution that addresses our concerns with the Islamic Republic of Iran's nuclear program.

Since I took office, I've made clear my determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. As I've said many times, my strong preference is to resolve this issue peacefully, and we've extended the hand of diplomacy. Yet for many years, Iran has been unwilling to meet its obligations to the international community. So my administration worked with Congress, the United Nations Security Council and countries around the world to impose unprecedented sanctions on the Iranian government.

These sanctions have had a substantial impact on the Iranian economy, and with the election of a new Iranian president earlier this year, an opening for diplomacy emerged. I spoke personally with President Rouhani of Iran earlier this fall. Secretary Kerry has met multiple times with Iran's foreign minister. And we have pursued intensive diplomacy — bilaterally with the Iranians, and together with our P5-plus-1 partners — the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China, as well as the European Union.

Today, that diplomacy opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure — a future in which we can verify that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon.

While today's announcement is just a first step, it achieves a great deal. 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 has committed to halting certain levels of enrichment and neutralizing part of its stockpiles. Iran cannot use its next-generation centrifuges, which are used for enriching uranium. Iran cannot install or start up new centrifuges, and its production of centrifuges will be limited. Iran will halt work at its plutonium reactor. And new inspections will provide extensive access to Iran's nuclear facilities and allow the international community to verify whether Iran is keeping its commitments.

These are substantial limitations which will help prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Simply put, they cut off Iran's most likely paths to a bomb. Meanwhile, this first step will create time and space over the next six months for more negotiations to fully address our comprehensive concerns about the Iranian program. And because of this agreement, Iran cannot use negotiations as cover to advance its program.

On our side, the United States and our friends and allies have agreed to provide Iran with modest relief, while continuing to apply our toughest sanctions. We will refrain from imposing new sanctions, and we will allow the Iranian government access to a portion of the revenue that they have been denied through sanctions. But the broader architecture of sanctions will remain in place and we will continue to enforce them vigorously. And if Iran does not fully meet its commitments during this six-month phase, we will turn off the relief and ratchet up the pressure.

Over the next six months, we will work to negotiate a comprehensive solution. We approach these negotiations with a basic understanding: Iran, like any nation, should be able to access peaceful nuclear energy. But because of its record of violating its obligations, Iran must accept strict limitations on its nuclear program that make it impossible to develop a nuclear weapon.

In these negotiations, nothing will be agreed to unless everything is agreed to. The burden is on Iran to prove to the world that its nuclear program will be exclusively for peaceful purposes.

If Iran seizes this opportunity, the Iranian people will benefit from rejoining the international community, and we can begin to chip away at the mistrust between our two nations. This would provide Iran with a dignified path to forge a new beginning with the wider world based on mutual respect. If, on the other hand, Iran refuses, it will face growing pressure and isolation.

Over the last few years, Congress has been a key partner in imposing sanctions on the Iranian government, and that bipartisan effort made possible the progress that was achieved today. Going forward, we will continue to work closely with Congress. However, now is not the time to move forward on new sanctions — because doing so would derail this promising first step, alienate us from our allies and risk unraveling the coalition that enabled our sanctions to be enforced in the first place.

That international unity is on display today. The world is united in support of our determination to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Iran must know that security and prosperity will never come through the pursuit of nuclear weapons — it must be reached through fully verifiable agreements that make Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons impossible.

As we go forward, the resolve of the United States will remain firm, as will our commitments to our friends and allies - particularly Israel and our Gulf partners, who have good reason to be skeptical about Iran's intentions.

Ultimately, only diplomacy can bring about a durable solution to the challenge posed by Iran's nuclear program. As president and commander-in-chief, I will do what is necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. But I have a profound responsibility to try to resolve our differences peacefully, rather than rush towards conflict. Today, we have a real opportunity to achieve a comprehensive, peaceful settlement, and I believe we must test it.

The first step that we've taken today marks the most significant and tangible progress that we've made with Iran since I took office. And now we must use the months ahead to pursue a lasting and comprehensive settlement that would resolve an issue that has threatened our security — and the security of our allies — for decades. It won't be easy, and huge challenges remain ahead. But through strong and principled diplomacy, the United States of America will do our part on behalf of a world of greater peace, security, and cooperation among nations.

Thank you very much.

GENEVA — Iran struck a historic nuclear deal Sunday with the United States and five other world powers, in the most significant development between Washington and Tehran in more than three decades of estrangement between the two nations.

The agreement commits Iran to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for limited and gradual sanctions relief. It builds on the momentum of the dialogue opened during September's annual U.N. gathering, which included a 15-minute phone conversation between President Barack Obama and Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani.

It 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 have been frigid to hostile — until the recent outreach between the two presidents.

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."

"Agreement in Geneva," tweeted U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who flew to Geneva on Saturday, joining foreign ministers of the nations negotiating with Iran to push the deal through. "First step makes world safer. More work now."

Kerry said the first-step deal will make Israel — an arch enemy of Iran — safer. He was trying to pacify Israel's vehement opposition to the deal.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has loudly criticized the agreement, saying 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.

A White House statement called the nuclear agreement an "initial, six-month step."

Specifically, the 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 uranium" 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.

In return, the statement promised "limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible (sanctions) relief" to Iran, noting that "the key oil, banking, and financial sanctions architecture, remains in place."

It said any limited sanctions relief will be revoked and new penalties enacted if Iran fails to meet its commitments.'

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