Interim deal on Iran nuclear program draws cautious support as well as criticism

Foreign ministers from six world powers negotiated into the early morning Sunday to reach a deal on Iran's nuclear program. Judy Woodruff lays out some of the terms of the agreement and reports on the international reaction.


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JUDY WOODRUFF: Amidst a chorus of complaints from Israel, some Arab Gulf states, and members of Congress, President Obama and other administration officials went out today to try to sell the interim deal reached with Iran over its nuclear program.

The president took time at the start of an immigration reform event in California to make a pitch for the Iran deal struck in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And if Iran seizes this opportunity and chooses to join the global community, then we can begin to chip away at the mistrust that's existed for many, many years between our two nations. None of that -- none of that's going to be easy. Huge challenges remain.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, today, talk focused on the nuts and bolts of the six-month pact, and the initial sanctions relief secured in Sunday's deal had shoppers and merchants buzzing in Tehran's Grand Bazaar today.

NABID HABIBI, Iranian (through interpreter): People have more motivation to buy. There's more confidence among shoppers.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Iran's economy has been crippled by comprehensive international sanctions for years, but, today, France's foreign minister said the European Union could begin easing its penalties next month, including, mainly, access to frozen oil revenues. He also said all moves are conditional.

LAURENT FABIUS, French Foreign Minister (through interpreter): Vigilance goes in both directions. I mean that Tehran will also be vigilant on us sticking to our commitments. For instance, we have committed to ease a certain number of sanctions. It's reversible.

JUDY WOODRUFF: That air of caution permeated talk throughout Europe. In London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague explained the deal to Parliament, and he urged Israel and others to give the agreement a chance.

WILLIAM HAGUE, British Foreign Secretary: We would discourage anybody in the world, including Israel, from taking any steps that would undermine this agreement, and we will make that very clear to all concerned.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had denounced the deal as a historic mistake and said his government is not bound by it.

Today, he was no less direct after speaking to President Obama last night.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Israel (through interpreter): It is a bad deal, as it takes the pressure off Iran without receiving anything concrete in return. And the Iranians, who are laughing all the way to the bank, have said themselves that this deal has saved them. This agreement must bring one result: dismantling Iran's nuclear weapons capabilities.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In fact, though, that is not on the table in this six-month, first-stage agreement. Instead, Iran agreed to neutralize its stockpile of uranium that's already enriched to 20 percent, a big step toward reaching weapons-grade; stop enriching any uranium beyond 5 percent purity; stop installing new centrifuges or building new facilities to enrich uranium; and grant new and greater access to international inspectors.

Iran also agreed to halt work at its Arak plutonium facility. The deal produced a hero's welcome for Iranian negotiators as they returned to Tehran last night. But a major core issue remains unresolved: whether Iran has a fundamental right to enrich uranium. The U.S. says it doesn't; Iran's foreign minister says it does.