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Foreign Minister: Nuclear Deal Preserves Iran's National Interests

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif addresses the parliament in Tehran on November 27.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says the nuclear deal struck with Western powers over the weekend preserves the national interests of the Islamic republic.

Zarif made the remarks while briefing members of Iran's parliament on November 27 on the interim agreement, which gives Iran some relief from international sanctions.

"It has worried the enemies of the Islamic republic and made them yell, " Zarif was quoted as saying by the semi-official ISNA news agency.

He claimed that under the deal "Iran's right" to uranium enrichment has been officially recognized. U.S. officials say no country has that explicit right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which Iran is a member of.

The agreement allows Iran to continue to enrich uranium, but only to a low-grade level of 5 percent.

The text of the agreement says, "This comprehensive solution would involve a mutually defined enrichment program with practical limits and transparency measures to ensure the peaceful nature of the program."

Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations and a former State Department senior adviser on Iran, said in a November 25 media call that Iran's enrichment activities had been acknowledged in the agreement.

"In this particular agreement as in other cases, the United States may not recognize the right to enrich, but it respects that in practice. And the fact that this deal does not require suspension, at least at this stage, essentially makes the acknowledgment even more probable," Takeyh said.

"So I do think that there is an enrichment acknowledgement in this particular agreement, it is actually stated in its first page. "

Arak Questions

Zarif said that under the deal signed on November 24 in Geneva, Iran had committed itself to remove Western concerns over its heavy-water reactor in Arak, which could be used for the production of nuclear weapons.

Iran says the uncompleted reactor will be used to produce medical isotopes and generate power.

Reacting to Zarif's comments, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said if Iran did not abide by its commitment regarding the Arak facility, it would be violating the agreement.

"We've seen [Zarif's] comments where he said, and just so in case folks have not seen them, what he said specifically was 'The capacity at the Arak site is not going to increase. It means no nuclear fuel will be produced and no installations will be installed. But construction will continue there,'" Psaki said.

"We're not sure exactly what he means by 'construction' in the comments that he makes. But there will be no work on the reactor itself, no work to prepare fuel for the reactor, or do additional testing of the reactor."

Psaki said the Geneva deal prohibited commissioning the reactor or transferring fuel or heavy water to the reactor for the duration of the agreement.

In his speech to the parliament, Zarif said Tehran will create transparency over its nuclear program to guarantee that its activities remain peaceful and that it will not seek nuclear weapons.

"This text emphasizes that at the end of the final step, Iran's nuclear program will be normalized, not that the last phase of the final step would be lifting the sanctions of the [UN] Security Council -- that would be the beginning of the final step," Zarif said.

"In the last phase of the final step, Iran's situation would be comparable to that of Japan's, Australia's, or Germany's."

Iranian officials including President Hassan Rohani have presented the deal as a victory for Iran that has isolated the country's enemies.

With reporting by ISNA and Fars
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