Three articles actually
Secret US-Iran talks set stage for nuke deal
BRADLEY KLAPPER, AP
55 minutes ago
WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States and Iran secretly engaged in a series of high-level, face-to-face talks over the past year, in a high-stakes diplomatic gamble by the Obama administration that paved the way for the historic deal sealed early Sunday in Geneva aimed at slowing Tehran's nuclear program, The Associated Press has learned.
The discussions were kept hidden even from America's closest friends, including its negotiating partners and Israel, until two months ago, and that may explain how the nuclear accord appeared to come together so quickly after years of stalemate and fierce hostility between Iran and the West.
But the secrecy of the talks may also explain some of the tensions between the U.S. and France, which earlier this month balked at a proposed deal, and with Israel, which is furious about the agreement and has angrily denounced the diplomatic outreach to Tehran.
President Barack Obama personally authorized the talks as part of his effort — promised in his first inaugural address — to reach out to a country the State Department designates as the world's most active state sponsor of terrorism.
The talks were held in the Middle Eastern nation of Oman and elsewhere with only a tight circle of people in the know, the AP learned. Since March, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Jake Sullivan, Vice President Joe Biden's top foreign policy adviser, have met at least five times with Iranian officials.
The last four clandestine meetings, held since Iran's reform-minded President Hassan Rouhani was inaugurated in August, produced much of the agreement later formally hammered out in negotiations in Geneva among the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany and Iran, said three senior administration officials. All spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss by name the highly sensitive diplomatic effort.
Obama: Nuclear deal blocks Iran's path to bomb
DEB RIECHMANN, AP
13 minutes ago
GENEVA (AP) — Iran struck a historic deal Sunday with the United States and five other world powers, agreeing to a temporary freeze of its nuclear program in the most significant agreement between Washington and Tehran after more than three decades of estrangement.
The deal commits Iran to curb its nuclear activities for six months in exchange for limited and gradual sanctions relief. The six-month period will give diplomats time to negotiate a more sweeping agreement.
It builds on the momentum of the public dialogue opened during September's annual U.N. gathering, which included a 15-minute phone conversation between President Barack Obama and Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani.
Obama hailed the pact's provisions, which include curbs on Iran's enrichment and other projects that could be used to make nuclear arms, as key to preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear threat.
"Simply put, they cut off Iran's most likely paths to a bomb," he told reporters.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who led his country's delegation, called on both sides to see the agreement as an "opportunity to end an unnecessary crisis and open new horizons."
But initial reaction in Israel was strongly negative. Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is responsible for monitoring Iran's nuclear program, said the deal was based on "Iranian deception and self-delusion."
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has loudly criticized the agreement, saying the international community is giving up too much to Iran, which it believes will retain the ability to produce a nuclear weapon and threaten Israel.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who joined the final negotiations along with the foreign ministers of Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, said the pact will make U.S. allies in the Middle East, including Israel, safer.
Israel minister: Iran deal based on 'deceit'
23 minutes ago
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel on Sunday harshly criticized the international community's interim nuclear deal with Iran, accusing the world of "self-delusion" and saying the agreement would not halt Tehran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
But officials acknowledged there was nothing they could do to stop the agreement, and said that Israel would do everything it could to shape the final deal that is to be negotiated during the next six months.
Israel believes Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon, and in the weeks leading up to Sunday's agreement, had warned the emerging deal was insufficient. It had called for increased pressure on Iran, and warned that any relief from economic sanctions would make Iran less willing to compromise down the road.
Israel's Cabinet minister for intelligence issues, Yuval Steinitz, said the last-minute changes to the deal were "far from satisfactory" and did nothing to change Israel's position.
"This agreement is still bad and will make it more difficult than before to achieve an appropriate solution in the future," he said. Instead, he compared it to a failed 2007 international deal with North Korea and said it "is more likely to bring Iran closer to having a bomb."
"Israel cannot participate in the international celebration, which is based on Iranian deception and (international) self-delusion," said Steinitz, whose responsibilities include monitoring Iran's nuclear program.
The exact details of Sunday's deal, hammered out in Geneva between six world powers and Iran, were not immediately known. Israel was not a participant in the talks but remained in close touch with the U.S. and other allies during the negotiations.
In a statement, the White House called the nuclear agreement an "initial, six-month step."
It said the deal limits Iran's existing stockpiles of enriched uranium, a key ingredient in making a nuclear bomb. It said the accord also curbs the number and capabilities of the centrifuges used to enrich and would limit Iran's ability to produce "weapons-grade plutonium" from a reactor in the advanced stages of construction. It also said there would be "intrusive monitoring" of Iran's nuclear program.
The statement also played down the extent of the relief from international sanctions, noting the "key oil, banking and financial sanctions architecture remains in place." It said any relief would be revoked if Iran did not keep its commitments.
Israel had called for far tougher measures, saying that stockpiles of enriched uranium should be removed from the country, all enrichment activity be halted and that the plutonium-producing facility be dismantled.
There was no immediate response from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had spent the past two weeks furiously lobbying against the deal. But an official in his office called Sunday's deal a "bad agreement."
"It grants Iran exactly what it wanted, a significant easing of sanctions while preserving the most significant parts of its nuclear program," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity pending a formal statement from Netanyahu. The prime minister was expected to address his Cabinet later Sunday.
Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran a threat to its very survival, citing Iranian calls for Israel's destruction, its development of long-range missiles capable of striking Israel and Iran's support for hostile militant groups along Israel's borders. It dismisses Iranian claims that the nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.