GENEVA, Switzerland, Nov. 24 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday Iran's promise to halt nuclear enrichment above 5 percent will make Israel and the entire region "safer."
Russia, France, Britain, China, the United States and Germany secured a six-month deal with Iran in Geneva before dawn Sunday. In exchange for easing sanctions against Iran, the Islamic Republic will halt nuclear enrichment above 5 percent; neutralize its current stockpile; stop work on any future centrifuges and at its plutonium reactor; and allow inspectors to confirm the commitments are being kept.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Sunday called the deal a "historic mistake."
"What was achieved in Geneva is not a historical deal, but a historic mistake," Netanyahu said in Jerusalem, Israel Radio reported. "For the first time the leading world powers agreed to allow Iran to continue enriching uranium, totally ignoring the U.N. sanctions. ... Israel is not obligated by this agreement ... Israel maintains the right to defend itself against all threats ... Israel will not allow Iran to achieve nuclear weapons."
But Kerry, in an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation," insisted the deal should make for a more stable Middle East.
"Are you telling me we're not better off being able to get in and see what's happening? Of course we are," he said. "In each case where they have been able to enrich without our knowing exactly what they're doing, we will now be able to have greater inspection, greater knowledge, greater restraint, and that will expand the amount of time it would take for them to break out and create a nuclear weapon. That makes Israel safer. That makes the region safer. And we believe it is the right thing to do to put to test whether or not they will actually show the world they have a peaceful nuclear program."
Asked to comment on Netanyahu's hard line approach to the Iranian nuclear program, Kerry described the Israeli prime minister "a friend of mine." Kerry said he had spoken to Netanyahu a number of times in recent days, adding while Israel and the United States may disagree on how to halt Iran's nuclear program, "there is no difference between the United States and Israel and what the end goal must be here. ... Iran will not have nuclear weapons.
"Together now, we need to set about the critical task of proving to the world what Iran has said many times -- that its program is in fact peaceful," Kerry said.
"There is no daylight between us with respect to what we want to achieve at this point. We both want to make it certain Iran cannot have a nuclear weapon and Iran cannot be in place where they can break out and suddenly get that nuclear weapon," Kerry said in an appearance on ABC's "This Week."
"The deal is the beginning and first step. It leads us into the negotiation so that we guarantee that while we are negotiating for the dismantling, while we are negotiating for the tougher provisions, they will not grow the program and their capacity to threaten Israel," he added.
Meanwhile, in an appearance on CNN's "State of the Union," Kerry said he doesn't believe Iran will become another North Korea, making promises but secretly continuing with their program. But the United States won't blindly trust Iran is following through with its promises.
"They have publicly committed that they are not going to build a nuclear weapon. North Korea already has and has tested and will not declare a policy of denuclearization. So, there are many different things that lead one to at least say that we ought to be exploring and testing the possibility of a diplomatic solution," Kerry said. "Let me be clear, we do that with eyes absolutely wide open. We have no illusions. You don't do this on the basis of somebody's statements to you. You do it on the basis of actions that can be verified, and moreover, we have kept the basic architecture of the sanctions is staying in place. There is very little relief. And we are convinced that over the next few months, we will really be able to put to the test what Iran's intentions are."
U.S. President Barack Obama called the Geneva agreement "a first step" that has "opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure -- a future in which we can verify that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon."
Kerry said the preliminary agreement with Iran addresses "the most urgent concerns about Iran's nuclear program."
"The agreement locks the most critical components of a nuclear program into place and impedes progress, and actually rolls back the stockpile of enriched uranium and widens the length of time possible for breakout," Kerry said.
"That means that whereas Iran today has about 200 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium, they could readily be enriched towards a nuclear weapon. In six months, Iran will have zero -- zero. Iran will not increase its stockpile of 3.5 percent lower-enriched uranium over the next six months, and it will not construct additional enrichment facilities," Kerry said.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hailed the agreement that he said allows Iran to continue enriching uranium because it is a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Rouhani declared activities would continue at the Natanz, Fordow, Arak, Isfahan and Bander Abbas facilities, Press TV said.
"The deal states that all sanctions will be lifted on a step by step basis as negotiations continue," he said.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman agreed with Netenyau, saying: "This agreement is still bad and will make it more difficult than before to achieve an appropriate solution in the future," Ynetnews.com reported.
Israeli Economic Minister Naftali Bennet also called the Geneva deal a "very bad agreement."
"Israel is not obligated by the agreement that endangers its existence," he told the radio.