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Arak heavy water reactor
Image: Getty Images/AFP/Atta Kenare

Obama on '50/50' Iran deal

December 8, 2013

Speaking at a US-Israeli relations forum, President Barack Obama has acknowledged doubts over the interim nuclear deal with Iran reached last month. In Iran, UN atomic inspectors have visited a key facility in Arak.


Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency visited the heavy water facility in Arak on Sunday, the UN team's first key appointment since arriving in Tehran on Saturday. Iranian officials said they had provided the inspectors with details on their nuclear program ahead of the visit.

Prior to the engagement, US President Barack Obama made some of his least positive comments regarding the interim deal with Iran brokered last month in Geneva by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus the EU and Germany.

At a Washington forum on US-Israeli relations, Obama said he was aware the diplomatic process with Iran could fail.

"If you ask me what is the likelihood that we're able to arrive at the end state… I wouldn't say that it's more than 50-50," Obama said at the Brooking Institution forum in Washington. "But we have to try."

The current agreement is valid for just six months and is designed as an initial step. The desired "end state" Obama alluded to would be a permanent agreement preventing Tehran from acquiring a nuclear arsenal but possibly allowing it to continue enriching uranium to lower levels not easily convertible for use in a nuclear weapon.

"If at the end of six months it turns out we can't make a deal, we are no worse off," Obama said, adding that in such an instance, previous sanctions would be reinstated in full, or even tightened.

The interim agreement with Iran, involving the loosening of some economic sanctions in exchange for concessions on Tehran's nuclear program, met particular criticism from Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will speak at the same forum on Sunday, described it as a "historic mistake."

msh/tj (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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