VIENNA — Iran and a group of six nations led by the United States said they had reached a historic accord on Tuesday to significantly limit Tehran’s nuclear ability for more than a decade in return for lifting international oil and financial sanctions.
The deal culminates 20 months of negotiations on an agreement that President Obama had long sought as the biggest diplomatic achievement of his presidency. Whether it portends a new relationship between the United States and Iran — after decades of coups, hostage-taking, terrorism and sanctions — remains a bigger question.
President Obama, in an early morning appearance at the White House that was broadcast live in Iran, began what promised to be an arduous effort to sell the deal to Congress and the American public, saying the agreement was “not built on trust, it is built on verification.”
ut Mr. Obama made it abundantly clear that he would fight to preserve the deal in its entirety, saying, “I will veto any legislation that prevents the successful implementation of this deal.”
Not everyone was celebrating the accord. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called it a “historic mistake” that would ultimately create a “terrorist nuclear superpower.”
In 18 consecutive days of talks here, American officials said, the United States secured major restrictions on the amount of nuclear fuel that Iran can keep in its stockpile for the next 15 years. It will require Iran to reduce its current stockpile of low enriched uranium by 98 percent, most likely by shipping much of it to Russia.
That measure, combined with a two-thirds reduction in the number of centrifuges spinning at Iran’s primary enrichment center at Natanz, would extend to a year the amount of time it would take Iran to make enough material for a bomb should it abandon the accord and race for a weapon — what officials call “breakout time.”
But American officials acknowledged that after the first decade, the breakout time would begin to shrink. It was unclear how rapidly, because Iran’s longer-term plans to expand its enrichment capability, using a new generation of centrifuges, will be kept confidential by the Iranian government, international inspectors and the other parties to the accord.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who led the negotiations for the United States, sought in his remarks on Tuesday to blunt criticism on this point. “Iran will not produce or acquire highly enriched uranium or plutonium for at least 15 years,” he said. Verification measures, he added, would “stay in place permanently.”
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