Iranian leaders have welcomed the six-month, "first-step" nuclear agreement reached with world powers, saying it recognizes Iran's "rights" to maintain an atomic program. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on November 24 that the deal reached in Geneva was "the basis" for further progress.
President Hassan Rohani said that "world powers have recognized Iran's nuclear rights" and cited the opening of "new horizons."
"The right of the Iranian nation to uranium enrichment is on Iran's soil," Rohani said in a televised address. "Whoever wants can make his own interpretation of this right. In the text of the agreement it is stated clearly that Iran will keep enriching uranium. For that reason, I announce to the Iranian people that Iran's enrichment activities will continue as before."
Rohani, a relative moderate who took office in August with expectations high following two terms under hard-line President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, noted that the apparent breakthrough came one day ahead of his 100th day in office.
The remarks came hours after Iran and world powers reached a first-step, six-month accord over Iran's disputed nuclear program.
cartoon by Saeid Noroozi, Tehran's SHARGH daily
The so-called P5+1 group -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States, and Germany -- have been offering Iran limited relief from international sanctions in exchange for suspending aspects of its nuclear program.
The talks, which entered their fifth day on November 24, had been stalled over Iran's insistence that any agreement acknowledge its "right" to enrich uranium.
"After intense negotiations, we have reached agreement today on a joint plan of action which sets out an approach toward reaching a long-term, comprehensive solution," Euopean Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton announced in a joint statement. "We agreed that the process leading to this comprehensive solution will include a first step of intial, reciprical measures to be taken by both sides for a duration of six months."
Speaking from the White House in Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama said the deal offers a "dignified path" for Iran to "rejoin the international community."
"Today we have a real opportunity to achieve a comprehensive, peaceful settlement and I believe we must test it," Obama said. "The first step that we have taken today marks the most significant and tangible progress that we have 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 the our security and the security of our allies for decades."
Special edition of Tehran's Etemaad daily: The Agreement's Sun Shines on Tehran
A White House "fact sheet" on the "first step understandings" said Iran had agreed to halt all uranium enrichment above 5 percent and to neutralize its existing stockpile of near-20 percent enriched uranium below 5 percent within six months. Iran also agreed not install any new centrifuges for enrichment and not to commission the disputed Arak heavy-water reactor, the statement said.
Obama emphasized that United States is committed to the security of Israel, whose leadership has repeatedly cast doubt on the nuclear negotiations and their ability to brake Tehran's perceived nuclear intentions.
Netanyahu warned that "what was achieved last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement -- it is a historic mistake."
He went on: "Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step towards obtaining the most dangerous weapon in the world. For the first time the leading powers in the world have agreed to uranium enrichment in Iran, ignoring [UN] Security Council resolutions that they themselves had led."
Representatives from Iran and 6 world powers sign a nuclear deal in Geneva on Nov. 24, 2013
(photo by Mona Hoobehfehr, ISNA)
Netanyahu added that "Israel has many friends and allies, but when they are mistaken, it's my obligation to speak out clearly and openly and say so."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov lauded the deal, saying it would benefit all sides. "Nobody lost, everyone ends up winning," Lavrov said.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement the agreement with Tehran would "help safeguard peace and stability in the Middle East."
Beijing's statement said the deal will also "help parties to begin carry out normal exchanges with Iran, and will help provide better life for the Iranian people."
Based on reporting by AP, Reuters, and AFP
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