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Obama says, 'Nuclear deal 'first step''

After years of intensive negotiations, US President Barack Obama Saturday hailed a first step deal between Iran and the Western powers on Tehran's nuclear program.

"Today [...] diplomacy opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure, a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful, and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon. While today’s announcement is just a first step, it achieves a great deal. For the first time in nearly a decade we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back,” said Obama speaking late Saturday night at the White House.

According to the US president, the six-month initial phase would limit Iran’s nuclear enrichment, while "neutralizing part of its stockpiles". Tehran’s next-generation centrifuges and the Arak reactor, which could begin to produce plutonium as early as 2014, would also be halted. New international inspections would also be implemented throughout the nuclear program.

The inspections would allow the International Atomic Energy Agency daily access to the Natanz and Fordow nuclear facilities, and would allow more frequent access to the Arak reactor, according to a fact sheet released by the White House.

In exchange, Tehran would receive limited sanctions relief, which would add roughly $1.5 billion in revenue from suspended sanctions "on gold and precious metals, Iran's auto sector, and Iran's petrochemical exports", according to the fact sheet. An additional $4.2 billion would be transferred to Iran in installments from Iranian oil sales.

In total, $7 billion would be freed up, including allowing Iran to transfer $400 million in tuition assistance for Iranian students to international educational institutions, and would allow repairs and inspections of various airline aircraft within Iran.

Obama called on Congress to refrain from imposing new sanctions during this time saying that "doing so would derail this promising first step, alienate us from our allies, and risk unraveling the coalition that enabled our sanctions to be enforced in the first place."

During this first phase agreement, negotiations would continue over a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

Obama affirmed Tehran's right to peaceful nuclear energy, but remarked, "Because of its record of violating its obligations, Iran must accept strict limitations on its program that make it impossible to develop a nuclear weapon. 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. If Iran seizes this opportunity, the Iranian people will benefit from rejoining the international community, and we can begin to chip away at the mistrust between our two nations.”

He added, "As President and Commander in Chief, I will do what is necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. But I have a profound responsibility to try to resolve our differences peacefully rather than rush towards conflict. Today we have a real opportunity to achieve a comprehensive peaceful settlement. And I believe we must test it."

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