Iran and six world powers reached a breakthrough agreement to curb Tehran’s atomic ambitions in exchange for limited sanctions relief, in a first step towards resolving a dangerous decade-old standoff.
The deal between Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia was nailed down early on Sunday after more than four days of negotiations.
“We have reached an agreement,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced on his Twitter feed. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also confirmed the deal.
A senior US official says the deal does not recognise Iran’s right to enrich uranium.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and foreign ministers of the five other world powers joined the talks with Iran early on Saturday as the two sides appeared to be edging closer to a long-sought preliminary agreement.
“Foreign ministers of the P5+1 negotiation with Iran will be going to Geneva’s UN headquarters where they will announce details of the deal,” Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull said from Geneva.
“It is extraordinarily significant,” he added.
Speaking from Tehran Al Jazeera’s Soraya Lennie said “Iranians have been waiting over a decade for a positive outcome.
“They are waking up to the news in a much more positive mood than at any other time during any of these talks,” she added.
The talks were aimed at finding a package of confidence-building steps to ease decades of tensions and banish the spectre of a Middle East war over Tehran’s nuclear aspirations.
The Western powers’ goal had been to cap Iran’s nuclear energy programme, which has a history of evading UN inspections and investigations, to remove any risk of Tehran covertly refining uranium to a level suitable for bombs.
Tehran denies it would ever “weaponise” enrichment.
The draft deal that had been under discussion in Geneva would see Iran suspend its higher-grade uranium enrichment in exchange for the release of billions of dollars in Iranian funds frozen in foreign bank accounts, and renewed trade in precious metals, petrochemicals and aircraft parts.
Iran will get access to $4.2 bn in foreign exchange as part of the agreement, a Western diplomat said on Sunday.
Refined uranium can be used to fuel nuclear power plants – Iran’s stated goal – but also provide the fissile core of an atomic bomb if refined much further.
Diplomacy was stepped up after the landslide election of Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate, as Iranian president in June, replacing bellicose nationalist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Rouhani aims to mend fences with big powers and get sanctions lifted. He obtained crucial public backing from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, keeping powerful hardline critics at bay.
Source – Al Jazeera TV – November 24th 2013