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    Jul 15, 2015

    Iran N-deal secured after 13-year stand-off


    MAJOR powers clinched a historic deal with Iran yesterday aimed at ensuring the Islamic republic does not obtain the nuclear bomb, opening up its stricken economy and potentially ending its decades-long bad blood with the West.

    The breakthrough came on the 18th day of marathon talks in Vienna between Teheran and the so-called P5+1: the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, Agence France-Presse reported.

    The deal, which came after a 13-year stand-off over Iran's shady nuclear programme, will put strict limits on its nuclear activities for at least a decade, with these monitored by the United Nations.

    In return, painful sanctions that have slashed Iran's oil exports by a quarter and choked its economy will be lifted, and its billions of dollars in frozen assets unblocked.

    Iran will retain the right to enrich some uranium at an amount Western countries say keeps it from stockpiling enough to make a nuclear weapon, which it has always denied is its aim.

    Also, a UN weapons embargo would remain in place for five years and a ban on buying missile technology would remain for eight years.

    Western diplomats said that, under the final agreement, Iran had accepted a "snapback" mechanism, under which some sanctions could be reinstated in 65 days if it violated the deal, Reuters reported.

    The deal - which was built on a framework first hammered out in April - is US President Barack Obama's crowning foreign policy achievement.

    It is also the fruit of his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani's attempts, since his election in 2013, to end Iran's isolation 35 years after the Islamic revolution.

    However, getting the accord approved by the US' Republican-controlled Congress could be a rough ride.

    The deal must also have the assent of the Iranian Parliament and the UN Security Council. And before UN, US and European Union sanctions can be lifted, the UN nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency will have to verify that Iran does indeed scale down its facilities.

    Iran's arch-foe Israel quickly lashed out at the agreement, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described as "a historic mistake for the world".

    "Iran will get a jackpot, a cash bonanza of hundreds of billions of dollars, which will enable it to continue to pursue its aggression and terror in the region and in the world," he said.

    Arab states ruled by Sunni Muslims, such as Saudi Arabia, which believe that Shi'ite Muslim Iran supports their foes in wars in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, are also wary of the deal.

    But there is a strong reason for the US to improve its relations with Iran, as they face a common enemy in the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Sunni Muslim militant group that has seized swathes of Syria and Iraq.