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Obama seeks to reassure Israel on Iran nuclear deal

US President Barack Obama has sought to reassure Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu over a nuclear deal between Iran and international negotiators. Netanyahu had described the deal as a "historic mistake."

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World responds to Iran nuclear deal

A White House statement on Sunday said that, in a telephone conversation with Netanyahu, Obama had "underscored that the United States will remain firm in our commitment to Israel, which has good reason to be skeptical about Iran's intentions."

The statement said Obama had confirmed he wanted the US and Israel to "begin consultations immediately regarding our efforts to negotiate a comprehensive solution" to alleviate international concerns.

Under the deal, Iran pledged it would cap its uranium enrichment level to 5 percent - well below the 90 percent threshold level required to build a nuclear warhead. It also agreed to "neutralize" its existing self-confirmed stockpile of 20 percent.

In return, Tehran gets a rollback of sanctions that it is expected might garner the Iranian economy some $7 billion (5.2 billion euros). The agreement was celebrated in Tehran, with crowds gathering to welcome Foreign Minister Javad Zarif home.

While the deal was widely welcomed by the international community, Netanyahu said it rewarded Iran while failing to dismantle the country's nuclear program.

"What was achieved yesterday in Geneva is not a historic agreement but rather a historic mistake," he said on Sunday.

Netanyahu told his cabinet that the world had become a "more dangerous place" in light of the deal and reiterated that Israel would not be bound by the agreement, adding that Israel remained ready to use military force against Iran.

Israel has repeatedly threatened to use preventative military force to target Iran's atomic program, given previous references by leading Tehran figures about the destruction of the Jewish state.

'Need for transparency'

However, the agreement, struck in the early hours of Sunday, was described by Obama as "an important first step" in addressing concerns about Iran. Congressional leaders from both the Republican and Democrat parties have expressed doubts about the agreement, with some saying they want even stricter sanctions imposed.

Meanwhile, the deal was hailed as a "turning point" by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. "We must use the next months to build up mutual trust," Westerwelle said on Sunday, adding that the deal should be implemented in a transparent and verifiable manner.

Germany is part of the P5+1 group of powers, which also includes the five permanent members of the Security Council: Britain, China, France, Russia and the US.

Britain and France said they were committed to seeing the agreement succeed, while Russia said it was a "win-win" deal. China said the agreement would "help to uphold the international nuclear non-proliferation system," while helping safeguard stability in the Middle East.

rc/av (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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