(L - R) British Foreign Secretary William Hague, Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry,Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (Reuters)
Iran and six world powers reached a breakthrough deal early on Sunday to
curb Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for limited sanctions relief,
in what could be the first sign of an emerging rapprochement between the
Islamic state and the West.
Aimed at ending a dangerous standoff, the agreement between Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia was clinched after more than four days of tortuous negotiations in the Swiss city of Geneva.
Halting Iran's most sensitive nuclear work, it
was designed as a package of confidence-building steps to ease decades
of tensions and confrontation and banish the specter of a Middle East
war over Tehran's nuclear aspirations.
Israel denounced it as a "bad deal" and said it would not be bound by it.
"This is a bad agreement that gives Iran what it wanted: the partial
lifting of sanctions while maintaining an essential part of its nuclear
programme," said a statement issued by the office of Prime Minister
The specifics of the deal have yet to be released, but negotiators indicated the broad outlines:
--Iran will stop enriching uranium beyond 5%, the level at which
it can be used for weapons research, and reduce its stockpile of uranium
enriched beyond this point.
--Iran will give greater access to inspectors including daily access at Natanz and Fordo nuclear sitesIn return, there will be no new nuclear-related sanctions for six months
--Iran will also receive sanctions relief worth about $7bn (£4.3bn) on sectors including precious metals
-- The agreement halted progress on
Iran's nuclear program, including construction of the Arak research
reactor, which is of special concern for the West as it could yield
potential bomb material.
would neutralize Iran's stockpile of uranium refined to a fissile
concentration of 20 percent, which is a close step away from the level
needed for weapons, and calls for intrusive U.N. nuclear inspections, a
senior U.S. official said.
"This is only a first step," Iranian Foreign
Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told a news conference. "We need to start
moving in the direction of restoring confidence, a direction in which we
have managed to move against in the past."
U.S. President Barack Obama said that if Iran did
not meet its commitments during a six-month period, the United States
would turn off sanctions relief and "ratchet up the pressure".