A framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear program has been reached after marathon talks with six major powers in Switzerland.
Under the deal, Iran will reduce its uranium enrichment capacity in exchange for phased sanctions relief.
President Barack Obama said a “historic understanding” had been reached with Iran.
The world powers and Iran now aim to draft a comprehensive nuclear accord by June 30.
The framework agreement was announced by the European Union and Iran after 8 days of negotiations in Lausanne.
The talks between the so-called P5+1 – the US, UK, France, China and Russia plus Germany – and Iran at Lausanne’s Beau-Rivage Palace hotel continued beyond the original self-imposed deadline of March 31.
Iran denies Western claims it is trying to build a nuclear weapon. It entered negotiations in order to see sanctions lifted.
According to the US, the outline deal includes the following conditions:
- Iran will reduce its installed centrifuges – used to enrich uranium – by two-thirds and reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium
- The centrifuges that are no longer in use will be placed in storage, monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
- All of Iran’s nuclear facilities will be subject to regular IAEA inspections
- Iran will redesign its heavy-water reactor in Arak so that it cannot produce weapons-grade plutonium
- US and EU sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program will be lifted in phases, but can be brought back if Iran does not meet its obligations.
Barack Obama said the deal’s implementation would be closely watched.
“If Iran cheats, the world will know it,” the president said, adding that the deal was based not on trust but on “unprecedented verification”.
He said the framework agreement had come after “months of tough, principled diplomacy”, and that it was “a good deal”.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, speaking at a news conference alongside Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif after agreement was reached, said a “decisive step” had been achieved.
“We have reached solutions on key parameters of a joint comprehensive plan of action,” she said.
Negotiators would now start “drafting the text” of the plan “guided by the solutions”, Federica Mogherini added.
News that a deal had been agreed emerged on Twitter, before the official news conference.
In a tweet, Javad Zarif said: “Found solutions, ready to start drafting immediately.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry tweeted: “Big day… Back to work soon on final deal.”
Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu also took to Twitter to declare: “Any deal must significantly roll back Iran’s nuclear capabilities and stop its terrorism and aggression.”
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Israel has denied allegations that it spied on talks between Iran and the US over Iran’s nuclear program.
The claims, reported in the Wall Street Journal, were “utterly false”, said an Israeli official.
According to the report, Israel wanted details of the talks in order to build a case against a nuclear deal with Iran.
Earlier this month, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu told the US Congress that a deal being discussed could “pave Iran’s path to the bomb”.
The US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China are seeking to reach agreement to curtail Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
They fear Iran wants to build a nuclear bomb – something Iran denies, insisting it is merely exercising its right to peaceful nuclear power.
The sides aim to reach a framework deal by the end of March.
According to Tuesday’s report in the WSJ, Israel began eavesdropping on the talks last year and also acquired information from confidential briefings with US officials and diplomatic contacts in Europe.
The White House uncovered the operation, the report said, when US intelligence agencies spying on Israel intercepted messages among Israeli officials that could only have come from closed-door talks.
US officials were particularly upset that Israel had sought to share the information with US lawmakers and others to build a case against the deal, the report added.
The report comes amid tense relations between the White House and Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
The Israeli prime minister angered Washington in his recent re-election campaign when he said he would not allow a Palestinian state if he was returned to office.
Benjamin Netanyahu later tempered his statement, saying he did want a two-state solution, but that “circumstances have to change”.
Secretary of State John Kerry has accused of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu of not being correct on Iran’s nuclear program talks.
Benjamin Netanyahu has criticized the US and others for “giving up” on trying to stop Iran obtaining nuclear weapons.
The Israeli PM “may not be correct”, John Kerry said after attending the latest Iran nuclear talks in Geneva.
Benjamin Netanyahu will address Congress next week, after an invitation by Republican leaders criticized by the White House.
John Kerry was reacting to a speech in which Benjamin Netanyahu had said the US and others were “accepting that Iran will gradually, within a few years, develop capabilities to produce material for many nuclear weapons”.
“I respect the White House and the president of the United States but on such a fateful matter, that can determine whether or not we survive, I must do everything to prevent such a great danger for Israel,” he said in a speech in Israel.
Having just concluded the latest round of nuclear talks with Iran in Geneva, John Kerry told senators President Barack Obama had made it clear the policy was not to let Iran get nuclear weapons and Benjamin Netanyahu’s might therefore not be correct.
The invitation for Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before Congress has angered Democrats.
Photo AFP/Getty Images
A spokesman for the White House warned against reducing US-Israeli relations to a party-political issue.
Earlier, US National Security Adviser Susan Rice had gone further and said Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit was “destructive to the fabric of the relationship”.
Benjamin Netanyahu was invited by House Speaker John Boehner in what is seen as a rebuke to President Barack Obama’s Iran policy.
Israel’s prime minister is expected to discuss Iran, as well as Islamist militant groups, in his address.
The current tensions took root over a decade ago when Iran’s nuclear program first came to light.
In 2005, Iran was referred to the UN Security Council, leading to a series of sanctions and UN resolutions requiring Tehran to stop enriching uranium.
The US and other powers – the so-called P5+1 – are negotiating with Iran on its nuclear program. They want to agree a deal by March this year, but Benjamin Netanyahu is opposed to any agreement which might allow Tehran to retain the future capacity to build a nuclear weapon.
Benjamin Netanyahu has turned down an invitation to meet Senate Democrats privately, saying this “could compound the misperception of partisanship” surrounding his trip.
Several Democratic members of Congress including Vice-President Joe Biden have said they will not attend the speech.
Republican leaders did not consult the Obama administration before inviting Benjamin Netanyahu, which the White House has called a breach of protocol.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on February 25: “The president has said the relationship between the US and Israel can’t just be reduced to a relationship between the Republican party and the Likud party.”
Barack Obama does not plan to meet Benjamin Netanyahu next week. The White House cited the “long-standing practice” of not meeting government leaders close to elections, which Israel will hold in mid-March.
Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting a tough election against the Labor Party’s Yitzhak Herzog, who has focused on the prime minister’s cooler relations with Barack Obama.
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