DECADES of bitter confrontation between Iran and America began to ease yesterday when the leaders of both countries praised a landmark agreement designed to rein in Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
The two rivals, who have lacked formal diplomatic ties for 34 years, reached a deal at 3am in Geneva on the fifth day of tumultuous negotiations.
US President Barack Obama said the deal "opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure – a future in which we can verify that Iran's nuclear programme is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon".
For his part, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader, wrote a letter of congratulation to President Hassan Rouhani, praising the agreement as the "basis for further intelligent actions", adding: "Without a doubt the grace of God and the prayers of the Iranian nation were a factor in this success."
It was Mr Rouhani's election in June on a promise of working with the West to ease the pain of sanctions that opened the door to diplomacy. "This agreement benefits all regional countries and global peace," he said.
"Constructive engagement (in addition to) tireless efforts by negotiating teams are to open new horizons."
Russian President Vladimir Putin said: "As the result of talks ... we managed to get closer to untying one of the most difficult knots in world politics."
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced a "historic mistake", saying: "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".
Israel has formed an unlikely alliance with Gulf countries, led by Saudi Arabia, in opposing the deal. They have been united by shared concerns about a nuclear-armed Iran and the Tehran's growing regional influence.
Arabs, Israelis and more hawkish members of the US Congress have warned that Iran cannot be trusted to keep its side of a bargain. Tehran has built secret nuclear plants in the past, and may even possess unknown facilities where research or enrichment work could continue.
Abdullah al-Askar, the chairman of Saudi Arabia's Shoura Council, a quasi-parliament that advises the government, said: "The government of Iran, month after month, has proven that it has an ugly agenda in the region."Mr Kerry insisted that the agreement "makes our partners in the region safer. It will make Israel safer".
He added that it would serve to "lock the most critical components of the nuclear programme into place".
Under the agreement, Iran will convert its stockpile of uranium enriched to 20pc purity – one step away from weapons grade – into harmless oxide. It will also scale down the enrichment programme and freeze essential work on the Arak plutonium plant, which could provide another path to a nuclear weapons-capability. In addition, more intrusive monitoring of its nuclear plants by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency will be allowed.
In return, the US will ease sanctions and release $7bn (€5.1bn) for Iran – equivalent to 1.4pc of its national income. (©
Daily Telegraph, London)