Vienna/Washington, July 15: Major world powers and Iran struck a historic deal aimed at ensuring Tehran does not acquire a nuclear bomb, in return for relief from crippling sanctions, diplomats said.
US President Barack Obama on Tuesday hailed the landmark nuclear deal with Iran, and said the pact would ensure Tehran does not acquire a nuclear bomb was based on verification and not on trust.
Obama also warned the Congress that he will veto any legislation aimed at scuttling the agreement.
Israel, however, quickly lashed out at the agreement, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described as “a historic mistake for the world”.
The breakthrough came on the 18th day of marathon talks in Vienna between Tehran and the so-called P5+1 — the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.
“The agreement is concluded,” a diplomat close to the discussions told AFP in the Austrian capital, where a final ministerial meeting between Iran and the world powers was under way to adopt the deal.
An Iranian negotiator also said the long-running haggling had reached a “successful conclusion”.
The head of the UN atomic watchdog said he had signed a “roadmap” with Iran for probing suspected efforts to develop nuclear weapons, a key part of an overall accord.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Yukiya Amano said he aimed to issue a report on the watchdog’s investigation by December 15.
The landmark deal is expected to sharply curb Iran’s nuclear programme and impose strict UN inspections in order to make any drive to make nuclear weapons all but impossible and easily detectable.
In return, the web of UN and Western sanctions choking Iranian oil exports and the economy of the country of 78 million people would be progressively lifted.
The IAEA has long sought to probe allegations that at least until 2003 Iran’s nuclear programme had “possible military dimensions” — that it conducted research into making a nuclear bomb.
Iran has always rejected the allegations as based on faulty intelligence provided by its enemies to a gullible and biased IAEA, and a probe has been stalled since last year.
The diplomatic push began when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani came to power in 2013. In November that year an interim deal was agreed but two deadlines in 2014 for a lasting accord were missed.
Then in April, the parties scored a major breakthrough by agreeing the main outlines of an accord, aiming to finalise it by June 30, a deadline since pushed back twice.
President Obama told reporters at the White House: “After two years of negotiations, the United States, together with our international partners, has achieved something that decades of animosity has not: a comprehensive long-term deal with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
Obama, in a rare early morning statement, asserted that this deal has achieved what the US and the international community wanted from day one — to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
For the next 15 years, Iran will not build any nuclear weapons, Obama said at the White House with Vice President Joe Biden standing by his side.
Because of this deal, Obama said Iran will remove two thirds of its installed centrifuges, the machines necessary to produce highly enriched uranium for a bomb and store them under constant international supervision.
“That means this deal is not built on trust. It is built on verification. Inspectors will have 24/7 access to Iran’s nuclear facilities. Iran will have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain, its uranium mines and mills, its conversion facility and its centrifuge manufacturing and storage facilities,” he said.
“Today, because America negotiated from a position of strength and principle, we have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region. Because of this deal, the international community will be able to verify that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon,” he said.
The US President asserted that under the deal every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off and the inspection and transparency regime necessary to verify that objective will be put in place.
(With Agency Inputs)