Framework deal with Iran hailed by Obama
US President Barack Obama has hailed a framework deal that America and its partners reached with Iran as a historic milestone that is based on unprecedented verification measures and not trust alone.
"After many months of tough principled diplomacy, we have achieved the framework for that deal, and it is a good deal," Mr Obama said at the White House last night. "It is our best option by far."
Mr Obama spoke a short time after Iran and representatives from the US, Russia, China, France, Germany and the UK announced in Switzerland that they reached an outline agreement that keeps them on a path to end a decade-long dispute over the Islamic republic's nuclear development programme.
The announcement came after marathon talks that were extended twice. It gives them three more months to settle technical details of an accord that could lead to the easing of sanctions in exchange for Iran's verifiable abandonment of efforts to build a nuclear weapon.
"Iran will never be permitted to develop a nuclear weapon," Mr Obama said. If the Islamic republic follows through on its promises "we will be able to resolve one of the greatest threats to our security."
But he now faces a tough task convincing Republicans on Capitol Hill that secretary of state John Kerry was able to secure enough in the negotiations.
He'll also need to stave off a pair of bills being considered in Congress: one that would give lawmakers the ability to review and ultimately veto the final agreement, and another that would automatically impose new sanctions if a final deal is not reached by the June deadline.
The White House has threatened to veto both pieces of legislation, saying they would jeopardise the talks. But critics of the administration's approach are looking to recruit a veto-proof majority.
President Obama addressed many of the issues raised by his critics, saying that America will continue to pressure Iran over its support for terrorist groups and that his administration will consult with the Israeli government.
The tentative agreement clears the way for talks on a future comprehensive settlement that should allay Western fears that Iran was seeking to build an atomic bomb and in return lift economic sanctions on the Islamic republic.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told a news conference: "The political determination, the good will of all parties made it possible.
"This is a crucial decision laying the agreed basis for the final text of joint comprehensive plan of action. We can now start drafting the text and annexes," she said speaking after the final meeting.