Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday hailed a landmark interim nuclear deal reached with world powers this week as the right step in a “long” journey to a comprehensive accord.
He stressed that Iran’s enrichment of uranium — which according to the deal will be limited to five percent purity — would continue as his negotiators engage with the so-called P5+1 — the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany.
“Agreement in Geneva is a very positive first step, but the journey before us is long,” Rouhani said in a live address on state television to mark his cabinet’s 100th day.
“Step by step, we’re moving towards achieving a comprehensive agreement with the P5+1.”
But he added: “Enrichment, which is part of our rights, will continue… Iran will never abandon its enrichment activities.”
The landmark agreement on Sunday rolls back parts of Iran’s nuclear work and freezes further advances in exchange for the release of billions of dollars in frozen assets and limited relief from sanctions that have choked Iran’s economy.
The agreement is valid for six months as negotiations continue towards a final agreement.
Western nations and Israel have long suspected Iran of seeking a nuclear weapons capability alongside its civilian programme, charges denied by Tehran, which insists its uranium enrichment is purely for energy and medical research.
The deal has angered Israel, the sole if undeclared nuclear armed state in the Middle East, as well as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies, which view Iran as a regional menace.
“There are some in the world who do not want this issue to be resolved, and there may even be some in this country who are acting childish,” Rouhani said, in a jab at Iranian hardliners who have been skeptical of the deal.
“Everyone is happy about this deal” except for “warmongers and that regime, which is an illegitimate one that occupies,” Rouhani said, referring to Israel, which Islamic republic does not recognise.
The deal, Rouhani said, had already created a “positive atmosphere” in the Iranian economy, which is enduring a crisis “unprecedented in 50 years.”
He said his administration plans to reduce rampant inflation of nearly 40 percent to around 25 by the end of the Iranian year in March 2014.
He also criticised his predecessor, the hardline Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for mishandling vast petrodollars.
“The previous government earned $600 billion in oil and gas revenues in eight years,” he said. “The richest government in history was also the most indebted.”
“In recent years, Iran successfully created jobs in South Korea and China,” he said, referring to its arrangements for bartering oil with Asian countries in the face of embargoes on Iran’s access to the global banking system.