Tough road lies ahead after landmark Iran nuclear deal

Reuters

By Louis Charbonneau and Parisa Hafezi

GENEVA, Nov 25 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama has pulledoff a historic deal with Iran on curbing its nuclear program buthe and other global leaders now have tough work ahead turning aninterim accord into a comprehensive agreement.

In a sign of how difficult the coming talks will be, some differences emerged between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerryand his Iranian counterpart in their public presentation of akey part of the deal - whether or not Iran preserved the rightto enrich uranium.

Obama also has to persuade its ally Israel, whose PrimeMinister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the deal as a "historicmistake," that the accord will reduce and not increase thethreat from its arch foe Iran. And he has to sell the accord toskeptics in Congress, including some in his own DemocraticParty, who have been pressing for more sanctions on Iran.

The breakthrough accord was reached in the middle of thenight at talks in Geneva between Iran, the United States, China,Russia, France, Britain and Germany. It won the criticalendorsement of Iranian clerical Supreme Leader Ayatollah AliKhameini and marked a clear turn in a U.S. relationship withIran that has been fraught since the 1979 Islamic Revolution,and vexed for years over the Iranian nuclear program.

But nobody doubted that tough work lies ahead in moving onfrom the initial deal that allows a six-month period of limitsto Iran's nuclear program in exchange for up to $7 billion worthof sanctions relief, while leaving both the program and thesanctions in place.

"Now the really hard part begins and that is the effort toget the comprehensive agreement, which will require enormoussteps in terms of verification, transparency andaccountability," Kerry said as he began a meeting with BritishForeign Minister William Hague in London.

The agreement, which halts Iran's most sensitive nuclearactivity, its higher-grade enrichment of uranium, was tailoredas a package of confidence-building steps towards reducingdecades of tension and ultimately creating a more stable, secureMiddle East.

For full coverage of the accord click on

SANCTIONS RELIEF

Iranian Foreign Minister and chief negotiator Mohammad JavadZarif flew home from Geneva to a welcoming crowd, a reflectionof the relief felt by many Iranians exhausted by isolation andsanctions that have been particularly punishing in the last twoyears.

Zarif said in an interview broadcast on state televisionthat Iran would move quickly to start implementing the agreementand it was ready to begin talks on a final accord.

"In the coming weeks - by the end of the Christian year - wewill begin the programme for the first phase. At the same time,we are prepared to begin negotiations for a final resolution asof tomorrow," Zarif said.

Illustrating the delicate dance that looms, he and Kerry differed in their public descriptions of the part of theagreement regarding Iran's right to enrich uranium.

Sunday's agreement said Iran and the major powers aimed toreach a final deal that would "involve a mutually definedenrichment programme with mutually agreed parameters consistentwith practical needs, with agreed limits on scope and level ofenrichment activities."

Before heading to Geneva, Zarif had a crucial meeting withKhamenei in the presence of Rouhani, a senior member of theIranian delegation said.

"The leader underlined the importance of respecting Iran'sright to enrich uranium and that he was backing the delegationas long as they respected this red line," said the delegate.

What emerged in the text on Sunday was wording that bothsides could live with.

Speaking on Iran's Press TV, Zarif said the deal was anopportunity for the West to restore trust with Iran, addingTehran would expand cooperation with the International AtomicEnergy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, to address what hecalled some concerns.

"In the final step, the (uranium) enrichment process will beaccepted and at the same time all the sanctions will be lifted,"Zarif said.

However, on the ABC News program "This Week," Kerry stressedthat such a right would be limited and would come about as aresult of future negotiations.

He said that under the terms of the agreement, "there willbe a negotiation over whether or not they could have a verylimited, completely verifiable, extraordinarily constrainedprogram, where they might have some medical research or otherthings they can do, but there is no inherent right to enrich..."

CRITICS AT HOME AND ABROAD

The deal also leaves Washington with the task if patchingstrained ties with its staunch Middle East ally Israel.

Obama telephoned Netanyahu to reassure him that Washingtonwould continue to stand by Israel and to suggest that the UnitedStates and Israel should quickly start consultations on theIranian nuclear issue.

Obama - who raised the idea of a rapprochement with Iranwhen he was campaigning ahead of his first presidential electionwin in 2008 - will also have to deal with critics at home.

On Sunday, even some of his fellow Democrats were stronglycritical of the pact. Senator Charles Schumer of New York, theNo. 3 Democrat in the Senate and a Banking Committee membersaid: "A fairer agreement would have coupled a reduction insanctions with a proportionate reduction in Iranian nuclearcapability."

But it seemed likely that Congress will give him room to seeif the agreement works.

Democrats such as Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, whochairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is known as ahawk on Iran, made clear that any new sanctions would include asix-month window before they took effect. That would allow timeto see if Iran is sticking by the pact.

Senators have been discussing for months imposing even tighter Iran sanctions, which could anger Tehran and putSunday's interim deal reached in Geneva in jeopardy. Andpro-Israel lobbying organizations - among the most effectiveinterest groups in Washington - have failed so far to persuadelawmakers to tighten the sanctions screw on Iran.

The agreement does not need to be ratified by Congress andObama is using his executive power to temporarily suspend someexisting U.S. sanctions on Iran.

The deal halts Iran's progress on its nuclear program,including construction of the Arak research reactor. It willneutralize Iran's stockpile of uranium refined to a fissileconcentration of 20 percent, which is close to the level neededfor weapons, allow increased U.N. nuclear inspections, and halturanium enrichment over a fissile purity of 5 percent.

In return the accord grants about $7 billion in potentialrelief from sanctions. It will allow a potential access to $1.5billion in trade in gold and precious metals and the suspensionof some sanctions on Iran's auto sector and petrochemicalexports, and also give Iran access to some $4.2 billion in salesfrom its reduced oil exports. (Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, Fredrik Dahl, JohnIrish, Arshad Mohammed, Justyna Pawlak in Geneva, AlexeiAnischuk and Katya Golubkova in Moscow, Isabel Coles, JonHemming and Yara Bayoumy in Dubai, Caren Bohen, PatriciaZengerle and Will Dunham in Washington, Dan Williams and JeffreyHeller in Jerusalem; Editing by Frances Kerry and Grant McCool)

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