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Foreign Minister Zarif defends nuclear deal in Iran

After reaching agreement with the six world powers on a nuclear deal on Thursday, Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is working to reassure his domestic audience that the deal is good for Iran.

Appearing on a state TV talk show on Saturday, Zarif said that should the West not live up to its promises, or if the West withdraws from the pact that is to be finalized in June, Tehran would be able to return to its current level of nuclear development.

His remarks appeared to be aimed at reassuring hardliners in Iran who strongly oppose the deal.

Zarif, who was welcomed back to Tehran by cheering crowds on Friday morning, insisted that Iran had negotiated from a position of strength to secure a good preliminary deal.

"They realized they can't shut down Iran's nuclear program," he said.

He also disputed a "fact sheet" that was released by the United States shortly after the deal had been reached in Lausanne, which emphasized Iranian concessions and referred to sanctions being suspended rather than lifted.

"The Americans put what they wanted in the fact sheet... I even protested this issue with [US Secretary of State John] Kerry himself," he said in the interview, adding that the UN Security Council would be responsible for monitoring any deal.

Zarif said Kerry's action was aimed at addressing rifts between the Obama administration and Congress over the deal. Republicans are almost universally opposed to Obama's diplomatic effort, while Democrats are divided.

Obama must convince Congress

Washington Statement Obama zu Atomverhandlungen

Obama is fighting to get a skeptical Congress on board

In the US, the agreement will now be weighed by a Congress that has watched impatiently over 18 months of negotiations.

Congress has two options: The first is an up or down vote to lift sanctions.

Obama stated his confidence on Thursday in being able to demonstrate that the agreement will advance US and world security, and said his aides would engage Congress on how it can "play a constructive oversight role."

The second potential congressional action is more risky: imposing new sanctions on Iran's economy. That could end the diplomacy altogether by jeopardizing the basic formula for a final pact which is the removal of Western sanctions in exchange for stricter nuclear limits.

In his weekly radio address on Saturday, Obama said, "Many key details will need to be finalized and added that "nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed. And if there is backsliding, there will be no deal."

The outlines for a comprehensive agreement by June 30 still contain large gaps for Washington and its negotiating partners.

First of all, the limits are vague on Iran's research and development of advanced technology that could be used for producing nuclear weapons.

Inspectors still might not be able to enter and inpsect Iranian military sites where nuclear work previously took place.

The Americans and Iranians are also arguing about how fast economic sanctions on Iran would be relaxed. And Obama's claim that the penalties could always be snapped back into force is undermined by the US fact sheet that describes a "dispute resolution process" enshrined in the agreement.

Promises and proof

Atomverhandlungen mit Iran in Lausanne

Kerry: 'No aspect of this agreement is based on trust'

The Iranians have always said that they do not seek nuclear arms and that their program is focused only on energy, medical and research objectives.

President Hassan Rouhani said on Friday that, Iran will "remain loyal and stand by promises."

Obama and his top advisers don't believe the Iranians on that front. But they said the agreement makes Iran's claims at least verifiable and does far more than sanctions or military action to ensure Iran doesn't assemble an atomic arsenal.

In an opinion piece in the Boston Globe on Friday Kerry said, "To be clear, there is no aspect of this agreement that is based on promises or trust. Every element is subject to proof."

av/bk (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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