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Iran’s ‘every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off’ under deal, says Obama

After 18 long days and nights in Vienna -- and more than two years of talks -- weary foreign ministers gathered to announce a landmark Iranian nuclear agreement. President Obama said it meets his standards for a good deal, though he said the U.S. and its five partners will not simply trust Iran to comply. Judy Woodruff reports.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The world woke up today to the news of an agreement aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear weapons program. It was the fruit of marathon talks between Iran and a group of world powers, the United States and other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany.

    The weary foreign ministers gathered after 18 long days and nights of talks in Vienna.

  • FEDERICA MOGHERINI, Foreign Policy Chief, European Union:

    Today is an historic day. It's a great honor for us to announce that we have reached an agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Within minutes of that formal statement, President Obama addressed the nation from the White House.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    We have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region. Because of this deal, the international community will be able to verify that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The agreement followed more than two years of talks, including the first direct U.S. negotiations with Iran in more than 35 years. The president said it met his standards for a good deal.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    This deal meets every single one of the bottom lines that we established when we achieved a framework earlier this spring. Every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off.

    And the inspection and transparency regime necessary to verify that objective will be put in place. Because of this deal, Iran will not produce the highly enriched uranium and weapons-grade plutonium that form the raw materials necessary for a nuclear bomb.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The main terms include Iran's uranium enrichment and related activities will be limited for eight years; 5,000 centrifuges will be allowed to operate, while 14,000 others, including more advanced models, are monitored by international inspectors.

    For 15 years, Iran will be allowed a stockpile of 660 pounds of uranium, but enriched to a level well below weapons-grade. Enrichment will end at the Fordow nuclear site, and the heavy water reactor at the Arak site will be rebuilt for peaceful uses. And Iran agrees not to engage in research and development that could lead to a nuclear weapon.

    Still, harking back to President Reagan's trust but verify, Mr. Obama said the U.S. and its five partners will not simply trust Iran to comply.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    This deal is not built on trust. It is built on verification. Inspectors will have 24/7 access to Iran's key nuclear facilities.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    In return, Iran gets phased relief from sanctions that have crippled its economy for years, but there are provisions for a snap-back of those sanctions if Tehran violates the agreement. Even so, Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, insisted today it's not the sanctions that got his country to bargain.

  • PRESIDENT HASSAN ROUHANI, Iran (through interpreter):

    It was the resistance of our people and their opposition that brought the other side to the negotiating table in the best way. If today some of the P5-plus-one countries want to announce that they deterred Iran from making an atomic bomb, Iran has never pursed an atomic bomb and will never pursue that.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Later, state TV reported supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei thanked Rouhani and his negotiators for their honest and diligent efforts.

    But, in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wasted no time in denouncing the deal.

  • PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Israel:

    What a stunning, historic mistake. The world is a much more dangerous place today than it was yesterday. The leading international powers have bet our collective future on a deal with the foremost sponsor of international terrorism.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Netanyahu relayed his concerns directly to the president in a phone call. He'd lobbied hard against the deal, even addressing Congress last March, at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), Speaker of the House: The deal that we have out there, in my view, from what I know of it thus far, is unacceptable.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Boehner today left little doubt as to where he and most House Republicans stand on the pact.

  • REP. JOHN BOEHNER:

    It's going to hand a dangerous regime billions of dollars in sanctions relief, while paving the way for a nuclear Iran. If, in fact, it's as bad a deal as I think it is at this moment, we will do everything we can to stop it.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Senate Republicans were likewise skeptical, including Foreign Relations Chair Bob Corker.

    SEN. BOB CORKER (R), Tennessee: I have to say that, when we passed over with the interim agreement from dismantling their program to moving towards agreeing that there would be enrichment, and then over time moving to what I would call managed proliferation, we really crossed the Rubicon.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Leading Democrats promised to examine the agreement closely, as Congress now has 60 days to vote up or down. And the president fired off a warning shot this morning.

  • BARACK OBAMA:

    I am confident that this deal will meet the national security interest of the United States and our allies, so I will veto any legislation that prevents the successful implementation of this deal.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The matter was immediate grist for the presidential campaign. Republican Senator Marco Rubio, the Foreign Relations Committee member, blasted the deal in a statement, saying: "I expect that a significant majority in Congress will share my skepticism of this agreement and vote it down."

    Another leading Republican contender, Jeb Bush, ended his denunciation saying: "This isn't diplomacy. It is appeasement."

    The Democratic front-runner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was on Capitol Hill today, meeting with Democrats.

    HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), Presidential Candidate: I think we have to look at this seriously, evaluate it carefully, but I believe, based on what I know now, this is an important step.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But before the matter arrives in Congress, the United Nations will debate the deal in the Security Council.

    Later, there were small demonstrations in Tehran cheering the expected end to sanctions. People held flags and chanted thanks to Iran's president. We will hear from President Obama's national security adviser and several former U.S. officials after the news summary.

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