'Historic' agreement reached in Iran nuclear talks; Obama hails landmark deal

By Amy R. Connolly and Danielle Haynes  |  Updated July 14, 2015 at 4:00 PM
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VIENNA, July 14 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama said early Tuesday he will veto any actions by Congress to stop the agreement reached overnight to reign in Iran's nuclear program in exchange for lifting international economic sanctions.

Obama said preventing the deal would be harmful to international relations. Congress has 60 days to review the accord, giving opponents plenty of time to pick apart details and challenge the Obama administration's position.

One of the deal's main goals is to increase the time it would take for Iran to acquire enough materials for one bomb from two to three months to at least one year, reducing Iran's enriched-uranium stockpile and reducing the number of Iran's installed centrifuges by two-thirds in its primary enrichment center at Natanz. It also prevents Iran from producing weapons-grade plutonium and tracks Iran's nuclear activities with transparency and inspections.

Obama said no deal means a greater chance of more war in the Middle East.

"I will veto any legislation that prevents the successful implementation of this deal," he said. "We give nothing up by testing whether or not this problem can be solved peacefully."

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the Senate will likely wait to vote on the deal after the chamber returns from its August recess. He said the vote would likely take place Sept. 8 at the earliest, The Hill reported.

The committee, he said, will start holding hearings "in the next two or three weeks."

Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the Armed Services Committee will also hold hearings.

Obama said if Iran violates the terms of the agreement, sanctions will be snapped back into place. It's a deal "not built on trust," he said. "It is built on verification."

The work to form an agreement between the world powers -- the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Russia, Germany -- and Iran has been ongoing for some 12 years and possibly marks a new era in relations between Iran and the West.

Both Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the county's president, Hassan Rouhani, praised the accord.

"Negotiators have reached a good agreement, and I announce to our people that our prayers have come true," Rouhani said in a live address that aired after Obama spoke.

Some key points of the accord:

- Limits Iran's nuclear production for 10 years and access to nuclear equipment and fuel for 15 years.

- Caps on uranium enrichment at 3.67 percent and limit on stockpiles to 300 kg, both for 15 years.

- Heightened inspections, including tracking uranium mining and monitoring the production and storage of centrifuges, for up to 20 years.

- Agreements from Iran to the continuation of a United Nations conventional arms embargo for up to five more years and a ballistic missile technology embargo for up to eight more years. The country will be able to buy and sell conventional arms on the international market in five years and ballistic missiles in eight years.

- Reducing the number of centrifuges at Natanz from about 16,000 to about 5,000.

- Redesigning a reactor in Arak so it cannot produce weapons-grade plutonium.

- If the agreement is violated, reinstatement of sanctions will come within 65 days.

Yukiya Amano, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he signed a "road map" with Iran for investigating suspected efforts to develop nuclear weaponry. He said a report on the IAEA's investigation will come out Dec. 15.

Until then, current sanctions are expected to continue. Once the sanctions are lifted, the country stands to gain some $100 billion in assets frozen overseas, an end to a European oil embargo and a stop to various financial restrictions on Iranian banks.

"This is a significant step forward," Amano said.

World leaders were mixed in their reactions to the accord. Israeli officials condemned the agreement as flawed, saying Iran cannot be trusted. On Twitter, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "Iran's increasing aggression is more dangerous than that of ISIS, and the true goal of this aggression in the end is to take over the world."

"Iran is going to receive a sure path to nuclear weapons," Netanyahu said before a meeting in Jerusalem early Tuesday. "Iran will get a jackpot, a cash bonanza of hundreds of billions of dollars, which will enable it to continue to pursue its aggression and terror in the region and in the world. This is a bad mistake of historic proportions."

Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, welcomed the nuclear deal with Iran, saying "the world heaved a sigh of relief today."

"We are satisfied that the solution found is based on the principle of phasing and mutuality, which our country has been consistently supporting at every stage of these complicated negotiations," he said.

Even before the official announcement of the agreement, Washington was buzzing with the news. Republican Sen. Ben Sasse said the administration had "just lit the fuse for a nuclear arms race in the Middle East."

"We all know Iran's neighbors will not sit idly as the world's largest state sponsor of terror becomes a nuclear-threshold state," Sasse, of Nebraska, said. "This deal abandons ‎‎America's historic bipartisan commitment to preventing nuclear proliferation, and instead begins the era of managed proliferation -- a descent into chaos and an even more dangerous world."

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., a ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said Congress has an "obligation to vigorously and judiciously review the deal."

"It is in America's national security interest that Iran is blocked from ever having a nuclear weapon," he said in a statement. "Negotiators have spent painstaking time and untold effort working on this accord. Congress in turn must fulfill its oversight responsibilities."

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