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Iran's Rouhani hails nuclear accord

January 17, 2016

Iran's president has praised the implementation of a nuclear deal as a "golden page" in the country's history. Not everybody is happy with the end of Iran's isolation.

Iran Präsident Hassan Rohani
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Noroozi

Speaking to parliament the day after the landmark nuclear accord with six world powers went into effect, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said "a new chapter in the relations of Iran with the world" had been opened that only radical extremists opposed.

"In implementing the deal, all are happy except Zionists, warmongers, sowers of discord among Islamic nations and extremists in the US. The rest are happy," Rouhani said in comments broadcast Sunday on Iranian television as he unveiled the country's budget.

The reformist cleric said Iran was not a threat to the region, but instead "a messenger of peace, stability and security in the region and the world."

Sanctions lifted

The UN nuclear watchdog on Saturday found that Iran had abided by a nuclear accord with six world powers drawn up last year, triggering the lifting of punishing sanctions related to its nuclear program that had isolated the country and put economic pressure on its citizens.

The sanctions relief will unfreeze tens of billions of dollars in assets, global companies will be able to do business in the country of 80 million people, and the oil giant will be able to sell crude after five years of being virtually shut out of international markets.

The financial windfall and sanctions relief was a "turning point" that would enable Iran to "improve the welfare of the nation, and create stability and security in the region," Rouhani said as he presented a draft budget for the next fiscal year to parliament.

With oil prices around $30 (27 euros) a barrel and new Iranian oil supplies expected to put downward pressure on markets, Rouhani said the lifting of sanctions and the financial windfall was an opportunity for the economy to cut its "umbilical cord" to oil.

Germany praises diplomacy

As a member of the P5+1 group that negotiated the nuclear deal, Germany praised the victory of diplomacy in ending a decades-long standoff.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a veteran of the negotiations, said cutting off Iran's pathway to a nuclear bomb was a "historical success for diplomacy." Now, he said, there was a "chance" for a new phase in relations between Iran and the world despite continued differences of opinion and interests over other issues.

Not everybody is happy

While the Obama administration and European capitals praised historic diplomacy in ending a nuclear standoff that only years ago threatened to potentially catapult the volatile Middle East into war, many opponents remain suspicious.

The deal could lead to an easing of strained relations between Washington and Tehran, with broader implications for US strategy in the Middle East, including against the so-called "Islamic State" group, against which both are fighting.

Washington and Iran are also likely to further discuss ending the war in Syria, where Tehran is one of the Assad regime's main backers.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has repeatedly said that Iran wanted to help in the fight against Sunni Muslim terrorist groups like Islamic State and al-Qaeda.

However, America's thaw with Iran and the end of the Islamic Republic's isolation is opposed by US Republicans, Washington's Gulf Arab allies and Israel.

The financial windfall and end of isolation, opponents argue, will enable Iran to destabilize the Middle East through proxies and continue on the path of creating a nuclear bomb.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an ardent opponent of the deal who attempted to undermine it by lobbying the US Congress, continued his attacks on Saturday.

"Even after the signing of the nuclear agreement, Iran has not abandoned its aspirations to acquire nuclear weapons, and continues to act to destabilize the Middle East and spread terrorism throughout the world while violating its international commitments," a statement from his office said.

All the US Republican presidential candidates seeking to take over the White House from Democrats oppose not only the nuclear deal, but any rapprochement with Iran. All the frontrunners have said they would rip up the accord and reimpose sanctions.

cw/se (AFP, Reuters)