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World

President Obama Praises Tentative Iranian Nuclear Deal

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Negotiators from the United States, Iran and five other countries say they've reached the outlines of a nuclear deal. The announcement came today after a round-the-clock bargaining session in Switzerland that stretched into overtime. The deal sets strict new limits on Iran's nuclear program for a decade or more in exchange for a gradual lifting of economic sanctions. President Obama cautions that there are still many details to work out over the next three months, but he told reporters in the White House Rose Garden this is the beginning of a historic understanding.

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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I'm convinced that if this framework leads to a final comprehensive deal, it will make our country, our allies and our world safer.

CORNISH: The president still has to sell the agreement to skeptics both at home and abroad. NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now. Welcome, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Audie.

CORNISH: So this is a moment that this administration and really this president has waited a long time for.

HORSLEY: Absolutely. Outreach to Iran has been a cornerstone of Barack Obama's foreign-policy philosophy even before he became president. It's something he talked about in his Nobel Peace Prize speech in '09, and even back in the campaign of '07 and '08 he was talking about reaching out to the Iranian regime. At the time, he was called naive, and even now there are those who think he has been snookered by a regime which has, after all, a history of secret nuclear development. But the president insists this framework deal calls for very intensive inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities and its entire nuclear supply chain.

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OBAMA: This deal is not based on trust. It's based on unprecedented verification.

HORSLEY: And the president suggests some of the critics are just not paying attention. He'll say that some of the warnings about backsliding by Iran were raised a year ago when negotiations began, and that since that time Iran has lived up to its obligations.

CORNISH: And the president planned to speak with one of the chief skeptics this afternoon, right, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

HORSLEY: That's right. The president had some celebratory calls to make today to some of the countries that were part of the negotiations, but he also had some much more difficult calls, including to Netanyahu, the King of Saudi Arabia, Iran's regional rival, and he planned to call congressional leaders who were also worried about any let up in sanctions. But the president notes public opinion is on his side in this case. A majority of Americans support a negotiated settlement with Iran, and the president suggests any alternative would be worse.

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OBAMA: When you hear the inevitable critics of the deal sound off, ask them a simple question - do you really think that this verifiable deal, if fully implemented, backed by the world's major powers, is a worse option than the risk of another war in the Middle East?

HORSLEY: And the president warns if Congress is seen to walk away from this deal then the United States will get the blame for the diplomatic collapse, and the united front that's really been assembled against Iran will crumble.

CORNISH: And, of course, Congress does still want a say in this process, but are they likely to get one?

HORSLEY: Some lawmakers are pressing for authority to vote up or down on any agreement that is eventually finalized with Iran in any relaxation in U.S. sanctions. The White House has pushed back against that. But today the president said his negotiators will be briefing lawmakers on the outlines of the deal, and Obama says he welcomes a robust debate. He says he's confident he can persuade the American people of what he already believes - that this is a good deal.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Scott Horsley on the framework agreed to today in Switzerland for a deal to limit Iran's nuclear program. We'll have more on this elsewhere in the show. Scott, thanks so much.

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