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Historic Nuclear Deal Reached With Iran

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"This is a historic moment."

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (C on left) and head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi (C on right) talk outside with aides after a morning negotiation session with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry over Iran's nuclear programme in Lausanne March 19, 2015. US and Iranian negotiators entered into a fourth day of tough talks towards a landmark nuclear deal, with Tehran's foreign minister talking down prospects for a breakthrough this week. US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart have been haggling in Switzerland since Monday as they seek to agree the outlines of this potentially historic agreement by March 31. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Brian Snyder (Photo credit should read BRIAN SNYDER/AFP/Getty Images)

World leaders pose for a picture during the final press conference of Iran nuclear talks in Vienna, Austria, on July 14, 2015.  (JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Update 9:45 a.m. ET: Russian President Vladimir Putin said the country he heads would do its "utmost to make sure that the Vienna agreement is fully implemented, thus contributing to the international and regional security."

Syria's President Bashar Assad also came out with his comments on the signing of the nuclear agreement.

He said coming days will witness a "strengthening of the constructive role played by Iran in supporting the rights of nations."

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the deal "secures our fundamental aim — to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon — and that will help to make our world a safer place."

Update 8:10 a.m. ET: The spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the nuclear deal announced Tuesday between Iran and world powers in Vienna will be "a catalyst for regional stability."

Saad al-Hadithi told The Associated Press that the landmark agreement, designed to avert the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, is "an important step" and will lead to better unity in the fight against terrorism.

Though Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the deal a "new chapter," he also took the time on a live state television broadcast to dismiss claims that the Islamic Republic sought to make atomic weapons under its nuclear program.

"Iran has never sought to manufacture a nuclear weapon and will never seek to manufacture a nuclear weapon," he said. "The whole world knows very well that manufacturing a nuclear bomb ... is considered forbidden."

Update 7:45 a.m. ET: Speaking from Vienna still on crutches nursing a broken leg, Secretary of State John Kerry called the Iran agreement "the good deal that we sought."

"We were determined to get this right and I believe our persistence paid off," Kerry told reporters at a news conference.

"Now," he said, pausing to take a sip of water, "our quarrel has never been with the Iranian people and we realize how deeply the nuclear sanctions have affected the lives of the Iranians. Thanks to the agreement reached today, that will change."

In addition to the lifting of sanctions only as provisions in the deal are met, Kerry explained how Iran's nuclear facility would be turned into a research center that will have daily inspections and include scientists from other countries.

The White House is shown as U.S. President Barack Obama announces a nuclear deal between six nations and Iran July 14, 2015 in Washington, DC. The deal would limit Iran's nuclear ambitions for a period of at least ten years in exchange for lifting economic sanctions. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Update 7:35 a.m. ET: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani from Tehran called Tuesday's deal the beginning of "a new chapter" for the world and the Islamic Republic.

"The sanctions regime was never successful but at the same time it had affected people's lives," Rouhani said on live state television, speaking after U.S. President Barack Obama's remarks were aired in the country.

Update 7:28 a.m. ET: U.S. President Barack Obama said Tuesday morning that he welcomed a "robust debate" from Congress on the historic nuclear deal involving Iran reached by international world powers, but added that he would veto any legislation that would prevent the deal from going through.

"Today after two years of negotiations, the United States ... has achieved something that decades of animosity has not," Obama said, calling the deal "in line with the tradition of American leadership."

Obama, listing many of the measures, said the deal will help stop the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East because, for the first time, officials will be able to inspect and verify that the stipulations are being met.

"This deal is not built on trust, it is built on verification," he said.

The president said Iran will remove two-thirds of its installed centrifuges and get rid of 98 percent of its stockpile of uranium. In exchange, the president said Iran will receive phased in sanctions relief as it fulfills the provisions in the deal.

If Iran is found in violation of the deal, the president said any lifted sanctions would "snap back into place."

"We give nothing up by testing whether or not this problem can be solved peacefully," Obama said.

Update 6:50 a.m. ET: After diplomats announced that world powers reached a deal regarding Iran's nuclear program, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced continued opposition, calling it a mistake of "historic proportions."

"One cannot prevent an agreement when the negotiators are willing to make more and more concessions to those who, even during the talks, keep chanting: 'Death to America,'" he said, before meeting with Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders, according to the Associated Press. "We knew very well that the desire to sign an agreement was stronger than anything, and therefore we did not commit to preventing an agreement. We did commit to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and this commitment still stands."

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif waves from a balcony of the Palais Coburg Hotel where the Iran nuclear talks meetings are being held in Vienna, Austria on July 13, 2015. Negotiators from Iran and major powers are 'working hard' to secure a nuclear deal, but 'political will' is still needed, an Iranian diplomat involved in the Vienna talks said. (JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to speak about the Iranian nuclear deal from the White House early Tuesday morning.

US Secretary of State John Kerry (2nd R), US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz (3rd R) and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (R) meet at the Palais Coburg Hotel, where the Iran nuclear talks are being held, in Vienna, Austria on July 14, 2015. Major powers have struck a long-awaited nuclear deal with Iran after more than two weeks of intense talks in Vienna, a diplomat close to the negotiations said. (JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Following his remarks, Obama is expected to launch an aggressive campaign to sell the deal to skeptics at home and abroad.

Original story as follows. 

VIENNA (AP) -- After 18 days of intense and often fractious negotiation, diplomats Tuesday declared that world powers and Iran had struck a landmark deal to curb Iran's nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions - an agreement designed to avert the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran and another U.S. military intervention in the Muslim world.

The accord will keep Iran from producing enough material for a nuclear weapon for at least 10 years and impose new provisions for inspections of Iranian facilities, including military sites. And it marks a dramatic break from decades of animosity between the United States and Iran, countries that alternatively call each other the "leading state sponsor of terrorism" and the "the Great Satan."

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (C on left) and head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi (C on right) talk outside with aides after a morning negotiation session with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry over Iran's nuclear programme in Lausanne March 19, 2015. On July 14, diplomats said a deal was reached.(BRIAN SNYDER/AFP/Getty Images)

"This is a historic moment," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said as he attended a final session alongside his counterparts from the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia in Vienna on Tuesday morning. "We are reaching an agreement that is not perfect for anybody, but it is what we could accomplish, and it is an important achievement for all of us. Today could have been the end of hope on this issue. But now we are starting a new chapter of hope."

The formal announcement of the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was to be made after the meeting, and President Barack Obama planned to deliver a statement from the White House. Its completion comes after more than two weeks of furious diplomacy, during which negotiators blew through three self-imposed deadlines. Zarif and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who conducted most of the negotiations, both threatened to walk away while trading accusations of intransigence.

The breakthrough came after several key compromises.

Diplomats said Iran agreed to the continuation of a U.N. arms embargo on the country for up to five more years, though it could end earlier if the International Atomic Energy Agency definitively clears Iran of any current work on nuclear weapons. A similar condition was put on U.N. restrictions on the transfer of ballistic missile technology to Tehran, which could last for up to eight more years.

Washington had sought to maintain the ban on Iran importing and exporting weapons, concerned that an Islamic Republic flush with cash from the nuclear deal would expand its military assistance for Syrian President Bashar Assad's government, Yemen's Houthi rebels, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and other forces opposing America's Mideast allies such as Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Iranian leaders insisted the embargo had to end as their forces combat regional scourges such as the Islamic State. And they got some support from China and particularly Russia, which wants to expand military cooperation and arms sales to Tehran, including the long-delayed transfer of S-300 advanced air defense systems - a move long opposed by the United States.

Another significant agreement will allow U.N. inspectors to press for visits to Iranian military sites as part of their monitoring duties, something the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had long vowed to oppose. However, access isn't guaranteed and could be delayed, a condition that critics of the deal are sure to seize on as possibly giving Tehran time to cover up any illicit activity.

Under the accord, Tehran would have the right to challenge the U.N request and an arbitration board composed of Iran and the six world powers would then decide on the issue. The IAEA also wants the access to complete its long-stymied investigation of past weapons work by Iran, and the U.S. says Iranian cooperation is needed for all economic sanctions to be lifted. IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said Tuesday his agency and Iran had signed a "roadmap" to resolve outstanding concerns.

The economic benefits for Iran are potentially massive. It stands to receive more than $100 billion in assets frozen overseas, and an end to a European oil embargo and various financial restrictions on Iranian banks.

Iranian men hold placards during a demonstration outside the Tehran Research Reactor in the capital Tehran on November 23, 2014, to show their support to Iran's nuclear programme. Iran and six world powers are holding talks in Vienna to reach a lasting agreement on Tehran's disputed nuclear programme before November 24. It wouldn't be until July 2015 that diplomats would say a deal was reached.  (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

Zarif said the agreement was a "win-win solution."

Federica Mogherini, the European Union foreign policy chief, called it "a sign of hope for the entire world."

But it didn't come easily, as tempers flared and voices were raised during debates over several of the most contentious matters. The mood soured particularly last week after Iran dug in its heels on several points and Kerry threatened to abandon the effort, according to diplomats involved in the talks. They weren't authorized to speak publicly on the private diplomacy and demanded anonymity.

By Monday, however, the remaining gaps were bridged in a meeting that started with Kerry, Mogherini and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and then involved the Iranians. A half-hour after Zarif's inclusion, the ministers emerged and told aides they had an accord.

Iranian opposition supporters stage a demonstration displaying a fake nuclear missile, ahead of ongoing nuclear talks between EU foreign ministers and Iran, in front of the European institutions, in Brussels, on March 16, 2015. (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

The deal comes after nearly a decade of international, intercontinental diplomacy that until recently was defined by failure. Breaks in the talks sometimes lasted for months, and Iran's nascent nuclear program expanded into one that Western intelligence agencies saw as only a couple of months away from weapons capacity. The U.S. and Israel both threatened possible military responses.

The United States joined the negotiations in 2008, and U.S. and Iranian officials met together secretly four years later in Oman to see if diplomatic progress was possible. But the process remained essentially stalemated until summer 2013, when Hassan Rouhani was elected president and declared his country ready for serious compromise.

More secret U.S.-Iranian discussions followed, culminating in a face-to-face meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the United Nations in September 2013 and a telephone conversation between Rouhani and President Barack Obama. That conversation marked the two countries' highest diplomatic exchange since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution and the ensuing hostage crisis at the American embassy in Tehran.

Kerry and Zarif took the lead in the negotiations. Two months later, in Geneva, Iran and the six powers announced an interim agreement that temporarily curbed Tehran's nuclear program and unfroze some Iranian assets while setting the stage for Tuesday's comprehensive accord.

It took time to get the final deal, however. The talks missed deadlines for the pact in July 2014 and November 2014, leading to long extensions. Finally, in early April, negotiators reached framework deal in Lausanne, Switzerland, setting up the last push for the historic agreement.

The disputes are likely to continue, however. In a foreshadowing of the public relations battle ahead, Iranian state TV released a fact sheet of elements it claimed were in the final agreement - a highly selective list that highlighted Iranian gains and minimized its concessions.

Among them was an assertion that all sanctions-related U.N. resolutions will be lifted at once. While a new U.N. resolution will revoke previous sanctions, it will also re-impose restrictions in a number of categories.

Beyond the parties to the pact, spoilers abound.

In the United States, Congress has a 60-day review period during which Obama cannot make good on any concessions to the Iranians. U.S. lawmakers could hold a vote of disapproval and take further action.

Iranian hardliners oppose dismantling a nuclear program the country has spent hundreds of billions of dollars developing. Khamenei, while supportive of his negotiators thus far, has issued a series of defiant red lines that may be impossible to reconcile in a deal with the West.

And further afield, Israel will strongly oppose the outcome. It sees the acceptance of extensive Iranian nuclear infrastructure and continued nuclear activity as a mortal threat, and has warned that it could take military action on its own, if necessary.

The deal is a "bad mistake of historic proportions," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday, adding that it would enable Iran to "continue to pursue its aggression and terror in the region."

Sunni Arab rivals of Shiite Iran are none too happy, either, with Saudi Arabia in particularly issuing veiled threats to develop its own nuclear program.

This story was updated to include more information. The Associated Press contributed to this report and its updates. 

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