Iran reaches landmark nuclear deal with world powers

US Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zari. Credit: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

The nuclear agreement between Western powers and Iran has broadly welcomed by politicians, former world leaders and Middle East experts.

An interim deal to restrict Iran's nuclear programme was finally reached after five days of top-level talks in Geneva, Switzerland.

The agreement is being billed as the most significant development between Washington and Tehran in more than 30 years of hostility. It commits Iran to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for limited and gradual sanctions relief.

Diplomatic Correspondent John Ray reports:

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Read: John Ray's blog: It's too early to call Iran nuclear deal 'historic'

It builds on the momentum of the dialogue opened during September's annual United Nations gathering, which included a 15-minute phone conversation between US President Barack Obama and Iran's new president Hassan Rouhani.

The agreement between Iran and the world powers includes:

  • Iran's agreement to stop enriching uranium beyond 5% used in weapons research

  • Iran agrees to halt development of Arak nuclear plant

  • In return, sanctions worth £4.3bn will be eased

  • Still in dispute is Iran's right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes

President Obama hailed the deal as putting "substantial limitations" on a nuclear programme that the US and its allies fear could be turned to nuclear weapons use.

David Cameron said the deal struck after lengthy negotiations in Geneva was an "important first step" and "demonstrates how persistent diplomacy and tough sanctions can together help us to advance our national interest".

He insisted sanctions would continue to be enforced "robustly" in order to secure a comprehensive final deal with Iran.

He said: "We now have an international agreement with Iran that moves it further away from getting a nuclear weapon.

"This is an important first step, which must now be fully implemented. We will continue to enforce sanctions robustly in order to secure a comprehensive and final settlement that fully addresses the real and substantive concerns of the international community.

"Today's deal with Iran demonstrates how persistent diplomacy and tough sanctions can together help us to advance our national interest."

Foreign Secretary William Hague hailed the agreement as "good news for the whole world". Speaking at a meeting in London with John Kerry this evening, he said: "the deal between Iran and world powers "vindicates the policy of pressure through sanctions and diplomacy through negotiations."

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President Rouhani said the deal reached in Geneva "recognised Iran's nuclear rights" by allowing it to continue to enrich uranium and that Tehran's enrichment activities would proceed similar to before.

He said in a statement broadcast live on the state-run Press TV that talks on a "comprehensive agreement will start immediately", adding Iran had a strong will for them to commence right away.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has condemned the deal as a "historic mistake".

He said: "Today the world became a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world made a significant step in obtaining the most dangerous weapons in the world".