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World Leaders Reach Tentative Deal In Iranian Nuclear Talks

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

There was a major step today in nuclear talks with Iran. Negotiators from Iran, the U.S. and other powers announced preliminary terms for a deal to limit Iran's nuclear program to peaceful purposes. This deal is not final yet. Important aspects still have to be worked out in the next three months, but the outlines went further than many expected when the talks missed a deadline earlier this week. Secretary of State John Kerry said it's a step to making the world safer.

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SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: Today, I can tell you that the political understanding with details that we have reached is a solid foundation for the good deal that we are seeking.

CORNISH: NPR's Peter Kenyon joins us now from Lausanne, Switzerland, where the talks took place. Peter, help us better understand the framework that's being presented here. These are parameters for a final agreement in June, but what are they saying they agree to?

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Well, to the relief of those supporting an agreement, this announcement - and it is an announcement of agreement in principles. It's not a written, legally binding document, but it does include commitments on many of the big issues that will go into a final deal. Take enrichment - we've heard a lot about Iran's ability to produce its own nuclear fuel. Under these parameters - if they're agreed to by July - Iran will cut its existing centrifuges that make this fuel from 20,000 to 6,000. Iran's nuclear fuel stockpile, the amount of fuel it has on hand, will be cut by 98 percent. It's not going to build any new enrichment facilities for 15 years, and its enrichment level will only be about 3.5 percent purity. Now, that means it's good for an electric generator, for a reactor, but not for a nuclear weapon. So these are some of the points Secretary Kerry and his team are calling a success.

CORNISH: And Iran wanted sanctions relief. Are they getting what they want?

KENYON: They seem to be getting some of it. Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif highlighted as many positive points for his country as he could. He said no facility will close. There will be no sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran. He said that several times, and it's very important to Tehran, but he didn't say that it won't happen right away, at least if it goes according to these parameters. And I think that's going to be a hard sell for Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani to make in Tehran. They will be allowed to do some research and development on better centrifuges, but they'll be under limits. So they do get some of what they want, but there's a lot to be worked out about when exactly that will happen. And whether that's going to be good enough for Iran is a big question.

CORNISH: There are many skeptics of this process. What's likely to be criticized in terms of what's in this framework and what's not?

KENYON: Well, there's still a lot of questions about the U.N. sanctions - when will they be lifted? Will they be suspended? How hard would it be to bring them back if there were a violation? There was a lot of positive talk on those points, but not really enough detail to answer those questions yet. And I think on the Iranian side, there's a real possibility that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei may be unhappy with some of these provisions.

CORNISH: Looking ahead, the next deadline is now June 30. What are the major points they have to build on now to reach a final pact?

KENYON: Well, the main point they're going to be taking back home to their skeptics is to say, look, now we have a path to a durable and effective deal. That's what they believe. They've tackled the very toughest political issues. They have an agreement in principle on many of them - something they can build on. But the drafting - the technical side - will be extremely difficult over the next three months. As one U.S. official put it, every sentence will be a negotiation.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Peter Kenyon at the nuclear talks in Lausanne, Switzerland. Peter, thank you.

KENYON: You're welcome, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.