ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Secretary of State John F. Kerry delivered an ardent defense Monday of President Obama as a strong foreign policy leader and “man of his word,” whose guarantee that Iran will never be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon should be heeded by doubters.
“Every time the president has said, ‘I’m going to do something,’ he has done it,” Kerry said at a news conference with United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan. Obama’s Iran pledge, he said, “is a centerpiece of his foreign policy, and he will not bluff.”
Kerry’s remarks were directed both at Israel, which has launched an international campaign to stop a potential U.S.-led nuclear deal with Iran from being finalized, and U.S. lawmakers who charge that such an agreement would harm both American and Israeli security.
High-level negotiations over the weekend in Geneva were suspended, Kerry said, after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he needed further consultations with Tehran. The deal, an interim, confidence-building step in which disputed Iranian nuclear programs would be frozen in exchange for a partial lifting of international sanctions, remains in draft form.
Zarif on Monday directly contradicted Kerry’s public remarks on how the Geneva talks were suspended, disputing his assertion that Iran had walked away from a deal offered by the United States and five other major powers.
“No amount of spinning can change what happened,” Zarif wrote in one of a series of Twitter postings that blamed internal divisions among the Western powers for the talks’ suspension. “Mr. Secretary, was it Iran that gutted over half of U.S. draft Thursday night?”
Since Kerry briefed him on the Iran proposal during a visit to Israel last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly called it “a bad deal.” Netanyahu’s government has urged lawmakers and Jewish groups around the world to lobby against it.
Congress is considering legislation to strengthen, not ease, sanctions against Iran. “A new round of sanctions will be coming,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., predicted Sunday.
Separately, Iran signed an agreement on Monday with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency in which it pledged to allow greater access to some of its nuclear sites, U.N. officials confirmed. Under the accord, Iran agreed to give International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors some access to the country’s main uranium mine and to a plant that produces heavy water for a partially completed nuclear reactor near the city of Arak. Iranian officials also agreed to provide information about additional nuclear facilities the government has said it plans to build.