Announcement unites Iranians from across the political spectrum in celebration and hope

The nuclear deal between Iran and P5+1 (the U.S, the U.K., France, Russia, China and Germany), signed at 4.30 a.m. on Sunday local time, came after a diplomatic marathon of three intensive rounds, culminating in a late-night session in Geneva.

It was chaired by the EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, for whom the deal represents a personal triumph. Some of the complications involved in coming to a deal stemmed from the need to keep the six powers together.

The six-month life of the Geneva deal is intended to be used to negotiate a comprehensive and permanent settlement that would allow Iran to pursue a peaceful programme, almost certainly including enrichment, but under long-term limits and intrusive monitoring, that would reassure the world that any parallel covert programme would be spotted and stopped well before Tehran could make a bomb.

That agreement would lead to the lifting of the main sanctions on oil and banking that have all but crippled the Iranian economy, and the eventual normalisation of relations between Iran and the U.S. for the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The difficulties facing the negotiators in the coming months were highlighted by the different interpretations U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, took on the fiercely disputed issue of whether the deal represented recognition of Iran’s right to enrich uranium in principle. Mr. Zarif was insistent that it did because it was based on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which guarantees the right to a peaceful nuclear programme. Mr. Kerry said that neither the NPT nor the latest deal specified a right to enrichment. That, he said, was a matter for negotiation in the coming six months.

News of the deal united Iranians from across the political spectrum in celebration, reflecting widespread hope that it would reduce the threat of war and ease punishing sanctions. Hundreds of thousands of people stayed up through the night to follow the minute-by-minute coverage.

The first announcement that a deal had been reached, by Ms. Ashton’s spokesman Michael Mann, and the confirmation by Mr. Zarif, were both made on Twitter — a first for a major global accord.

“Day five, 3am, it’s white smoke,” tweeted Deputy Iranian Foreign Minister Seyyed Abbas Araghchi, referring to the terminology used in Vatican for the announcement of a Pope. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2013

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