Iran nuclear deal US Secretary of State defends 'only viable option'

Mr Kerry is expected to face tough questions as Congress reviews the deal over the coming weeks.

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The deal with Iran has encountered plenty of opposition, from within Congress to the streets play

The deal with Iran has encountered plenty of opposition, from within Congress to the streets

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US Secretary of State John Kerry has defended a nuclear deal with Iran, calling it the "only viable option" to a peaceful resolution of the issue.

He told the US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee: "We set out to dismantle [Iran's] ability to build a nuclear weapon and we achieved that."

Mr Kerry is expected to face tough questions as Congress reviews the deal over the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Iran's president has also been defending last week's accord.

Hassan Rouhani, in a speech broadcast live on television, said the deal represented "a new page in history" and was wanted by the Iranian people.

Negotiations between Iran and six world powers - the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany - began in 2006.

The powers suspected Iran of pursuing a clandestine nuclear weapons programme, but Tehran has always insisted its nuclear ambitions are peaceful and energy-related.

Scepticism

Mr Kerry told the committee hearing that the US administration came to the negotiating table with one clear objective - to address the issue of nuclear weapons.

He said that it was pointless to insist on dismantling Iran's whole nuclear programme, as it already had experience in nuclear technology and enough fissile material to build 10-12 nuclear bombs.

"The choice we face is between an agreement that will ensure Iran's nuclear programme is limited, rigorously scrutinised and wholly peaceful - or no deal at all."

As part of the deal reached earlier this month, Iran has agreed to rein in its nuclear activity and accept a mechanism for inspections by nuclear officials, in return for the lifting of international sanctions.

Congress has until 17 September to make a decision on whether to approve or reject the deal.

Republicans have already said they would oppose it, and a number of Democrats have said they are undecided how to vote.

Mr Kerry appeared at Thursday's committee meeting with fellow negotiators, the Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

But they faced a great deal of scepticism from committee members.

Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, opened the meeting by telling Mr Kerry that the deal simply prepared the ground for Iran to build a nuclear weapon.

"I believe you've been fleeced," he told him.

Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio told him the deal was "fundamentally flawed" and would "weaken our national security and make the world a more dangerous place".

He said under the deal, Iran would still be able to build long-range ballistic missiles "that know only one purpose and that is for nuclear warfare" and would provide billions "to a regime that... directly threatens the interests of the United States and our allies".

Credit: BBC

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