Rowhani assures critics nuclear deal is good for Iran

‘This is a new page in history,’ Iranian President Hassan Rowhani said in a speech broadcast live on television

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Iranian President Hassan Rowhani defended Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers after it came under attack from conservatives at home, arguing on Thursday it reflected the nation’s will and was “more valuable” than carping over the details.

While many Iranians hope last week’s agreement will bring an end to sanctions and deliver prosperity, the elite Revolutionary Guards military force and conservative lawmakers have said it endangers the country's security.

“This is a new page in history,” Rowhani said in a speech broadcast live on television, reiterating that the deal had launched a phase of reconciliation with the outside world.

Pinning his authority to the fate of the agreement, Rowhani added that this new era had not begun when it was reached in Vienna on July 14 but rather on Aug. 4, 2013, the day Iranians elected him to solve the nuclear dispute.

The deal imposes curbs on Iran's nuclear program in return for an easing of the international sanctions which have badly hurt its economy.

Iranian conservatives are not the only group unhappy with it. In the United States, Republicans who control Congress have also lined up against the agreement, although President Barack Obama says he will veto any congressional objection.

The Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, has promised to do “everything possible” to stop the deal. U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Thursday he had not yet decided how to vote on the agreement, although he acknowledged that U.S. negotiators had “got an awful lot.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also has the task of selling the agreement to skeptical U.S. allies in the region. Israel is strongly opposed while Washington’s Sunni Muslim-ruled Arab allies, led by Saudi Arabia, are wary of an arrangement that would benefit their rival, Shi'ite Iran.

In Jeddah, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters that his country hoped the deal would curb rather than expand “Iran’s interference in the region’s affairs.”

“We hope that Iran will make use of the deal’s fruits to re-build their country and to improve their people’s quality of living, not to use it to conduct more subversion in the region.”

Jubeir added that any agreement should guarantee Iran’s inability to get nuclear weapons and allow inspection of “all locations including the military locations.”

Iran denies the nuclear program aims to produce weapons.

The Revolutionary Guards have made it clear they will not permit any inspection of their military sites, and will not bow to any restriction on Iran’s missile program.

European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, who helped to broker the agreement, will visit Riyadh on Monday and Tehran on Tuesday next week.

In Riyadh, Mogherini will meet Jubeir to discuss “regional issues” following the Vienna deal, an EU statement said.

Chiding critics of the accord, Rowhani said he had noted some Iranian officials were “scrutinizing one by one the terms of the deal” and a subsequent resolution endorsing it which the United Nations Security Council passed on Monday.

“That’s good but what has happened is more valuable and more significant than that,” he said.

“The agreement conveyed this message to the world: Never threaten an Iranian anymore. This agreement sent the message to the world that the most difficult and complex international issues can be resolved through negotiations. Iran’s path is a path of moderation.”

Many analysts see the chance of the Iranian leadership eventually rejecting the accord as small, since Tehran needs the lifting of sanctions to help its isolated economy.

Minister of Industry, Mines and Trade Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh outlined plans to rebuild its main industries and trade relationships following the deal, saying it was targeting oil and gas projects worth $185 billion by 2020.

Sanctions are unlikely to be removed until next year, as nuclear inspectors must confirm that Iran is complying with the deal.

The Iranian debate over the deal’s details largely reflects internal rivalries in the country’s cumbersome dual system of clerical and republican rule, in which factions jostle to gain maximum benefit from the deal while shouldering the least responsibility.

Iran’s procedures for ratifying the accord are not known in any detail. Whatever the eventual role of parliament or the National Security Council, the deal will have to be approved by Khamenei, the country’s highest authority.

Foreign Minister and chief nuclear negotiator, Mohammad Javad Zarif, attended parliament on Tuesday to deliver the text of the deal and answer MPs' questions.

Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Khamenei, said on Wednesday he did not know which person or body would have the final say on the deal but added “It seems the National Security Council has been assigned to examine the deal.”

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