Iran has agreed to temporarily suspend its nuclear program as a part of a six-month deal reached with the United States and its allies. The accord is the product of recent diplomatic talks with the Middle Eastern country attempting to curb Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for easing economic sanctions.
Signed early Sunday morning in Geneva, the agreement restricts Iran from enriching uranium beyond five percent. This level is too low to fuel a nuclear bomb but is enough for energy production. Iran will also dismantle links between networks of existing centrifuges, and will not build any new centrifuges or enrichment plants. Its stockpile of 20-percent enriched uranium will be diluted or converted to oxide so it cannot be used for bomb production.
President Barack Obama said the agreement is the first step to ensuring Iran's nuclear program is peaceful and not intended for weapons production. In a statement from the State Dining Room Saturday night, Obama said the agreement will also allow inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities to verify compliance. He emphasized that a more permanent deal will be pursued during further negotiations over the next six months, but in the meantime Iran will be unable to use those talks "as cover to advance its program."
"In these negotiations, nothing will be agreed to unless everything is agreed to. The burden is on Iran to prove to the world that its nuclear program will be exclusively for peaceful purposes," Obama said.
In exchange for the nuclear program restrictions, the United States will provide between $6 and $7 billion in sanctions relief. Iran has been subject to tough economic sanctions for its repeated refusal to comply with international law regarding its nuclear activities, as the country maintains it has the right to such technology.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been publicly critical of the recent negotiations, said his country did not accept the deal. He said the international community was wrong to provide sanctions relief to Iran in exchange for an accord that did not entirely curb nuclear production.
"Israel is not bound by this agreement," Netanyahu said. "As prime minister of Israel, I would like to make it clear: Israel will not allow Iran to develop a military nuclear capability."
Some members of Congress too have been wary of the diplomatic talks, pressing instead for further sanctions on Iran. They argued this would give the United States more leverage in negotiating an end to Iran's nuclear production.
President Obama can use an executive order to enact the sanctions relief included in the agreement, so no action from Congress will be required to approve it.
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