Iran's foreign minister has submitted the nuclear deal struck with world powers last week to parliament for review. Under the agreement, Tehran will have to curb its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif defended the landmark pact before the country's parliament on Tuesday, telling lawmakers the terms were "unique" and "balanced."
"We don't say the deal is totally in favor of Iran," Zarif said in a speech to the house. "Any deal is a give and take and each side gives up part of its demands to realize the more important part, until what has been given and received is balanced."
The agreement was reached in Vienna last week following drawn-out negotiations between Iran and six world powers - the US, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany (known collectively as the P5+1). The deal requires Iran's nuclear program to be reined in for one decade in exchange for billions of dollars' worth of relief from EU, UN and US sanctions.
Zarif, who led Iran's negotiating team at the talks, told the parliament that he had been able to gain the "key objectives on which we insisted."
Under Iran's constitution, parliament has a right to reject any deal, even one negotiated by the foreign ministry. The text will also be subject to approval by Iran's National Security Council and, ultimately, by conservative cleric Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
On Monday, the UN Security Council unanimously endorsed the agreement, and authorized measures that would clear the way for UN sanctions to be lifted. The Security Council also approved a provision allowing sanctions to automatically snap back into place should Iran renege on its promises.
Some hardliners in the conservative-dominated parliament have opposed the nuclear deal from the start, arguing that it demands too many concessions from Tehran. Many politicians have also raised concerns about the UN's "snap back" provision. Zarif sought to allay their fears in his address on Tuesday, saying reversing the agreement would exact a "heavy price" on the other side as well.
"If for any reason Security Council sanctions are reimposed, Iran will not be obliged to abide by its commitments," he said.
Western countries have long feared that Iran is covertly seeking to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran maintains its nuclear program is solely for civilian and scientific purposes. Under the agreement, Iran will have to accept a more rigorous inspection program, dismantle two-thirds of its centrifuges for enriching uranium, and get rid of 98 percent of its uranium stockpile.
Ayatollah Khamenei hasn't delivered his verdict, although over the weekend he said he would not allow "Iran's security and defense capabilities" to be threatened.
nm/rg (Reuters, AP, AFP)