Obama: Nuclear Deal is Important ‘First Step’

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File photo of President Barack Obama. (credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

File photo of President Barack Obama. (credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – President Barack Obama called the breakthrough agreement between Iran and six world powers an important “first step” toward resolving a dangerous nuclear situation.

The United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia came to agreement with Iran after days of negotiations to curb Tehran’s atomic ambitions in exchange for limited sanctions.

Obama said at the White House that the agreement 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.”

He said the deal was the result of “intensive diplomacy.”

“While today’s announcement is just a first step, it achieves a great deal,” Obama stated. “For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back.  Iran has committed to halting certain levels of enrichment, and neutralizing part of its stockpile.”

The deal is for six months and is geared towards making way for a broader agreement with Iran.  Under this deal, modest relief from U.S. economic sanctions will be given in exchange for the progress on key elements of Iran’s nuclear program to be halted.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he was pleased with the deal.

“We need to start moving in the direction of restoring confidence, a direction in which we have managed to move against in the past,” he told reporters in Geneva according to CBS News.

However, Obama did state that if Iran does not hold up its end to the agreement, the deal would be off the table.

“If Iran does not fully meet its commitments during this six-month phase, we will turn off the relief and ratchet up the pressure,” he said.

Iran’s nuclear energy program has a long history of evading U.N. inspectors and investigations, CBS News reported.  The goal had been to cap the program and remove any risk of Tehran covertly refining uranium to a level suitable for bombs.

With this short-term agreement, billions of dollars in Iranian funds frozen in foreign bank accounts and renewed trade in precious metals, petrochemicals and aircraft parts will be released in exchange for the suspension of the country’s higher-grade uranium enrichment.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not support the deal that was reached between Iran and the six world powers.  He called it a “historic mistake” that his country is not bound by.

“What was achieved last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement, it is a historic mistake,” Netanyahu said in a statement Sunday morning according to CNN. “This agreement and its significance there of threatens many countries and of course Israel among them. Israel is not obliged to the agreement.”

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(TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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