U.S. President Barack Obama has pushed back at critics of the recent international nuclear agreement with Iran. Speaking in San Francisco on November 25, Obama accused critics of playing political games instead of backing what was best for American security. "Tough talk and bluster may be the easy thing to do politically, but it's not the right thing for our security," Obama said.
Obama was speaking following criticism from American ally Israel, as well as some lawmakers from both major U.S. political parties, alleging that the deal hands advantages to Iran and weakens world pressure on Tehran.
The agreement between Iran and six world powers, reached during talks in Geneva and signed early on November 24, calls for the suspension of parts of Iran's nuclear program.
In exchange, Iran will receive some relief from economic sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy, impacting millions of ordinary Iranians, and forced the reduction of Iranian oil exports, a key revenue source.
The deal has been given a timeframe of six months so that Iran and the world powers -- the United States, Russia, France, Germany, China and Britain -- will have time to negotiate what's envisioned as a permanent settlement.
In his response to detractors, Obama praised the pact as halting Iran's nuclear "progress," saying "key parts of the program will be rolled back."
He hailed the deal as a victory for diplomacy, saying the agreement will give Washington and Tehran an opportunity to "chip away at the mistrust" that has existed for many years between the two countries.
"If Iran seizes this opportunity and chooses to join the global community, then we can begin to chip away at the mistrust that's existed for many, many years between our two nations," Obama said.
"None of that's going to be easy; huge challenges remain. But we cannot close the door on diplomacy."
Obama said he intends to push forward with negotiations in the coming months to find a lasting resolution to the dispute over Iran's nuclear program, which is suspected by Washington and its allies of being used to develop an atomic weapon.
Iran denies pursuing an atomic weapons program, saying its nuclear development is for energy production and medical uses.
Four rounds of UN sanctions and other unilateral punitive measures have sought to dissuade Tehran from the most contentious nuclear activities.
"International inspectors will have unprecedented access to Iran's nuclear-related facilities, so this will help Iran from building a nuclear weapon," Obama said.
"Over the coming months, we're going to continue our diplomacy with the goal of achieving a comprehensive solution that deals with the threat of Iran's nuclear program once and for all."
Earlier, officials in the European Union said the bloc was likely to lift some sanctions on Iran by the end of the year or in January.
Western officials have emphasized, however, that sanctions can be reapplied if Iran fails to fulfill its obligations.
Under the deal, Iran has agreed not to enrich uranium beyond 5 percent and also to "neutralize" stockpiles of uranium that have been enriched to 20-percent purity, or close to weapons-grade.
Iran also agreed not to install more enrichment centrifuges nor to commission the Arak heavy-water reactor, which could produce plutonium.
The deal also gives United Nations inspectors improved access to the Natanz and Fordow nuclear sites.
In return, Iran is to receive sanctions relief estimated to be worth about $7 billion in sectors including petrochemicals and precious metals. The United States and its allies have also pledged not to impose fresh sanctions for six months.
Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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