Lebanese figures offer mixed reactions to Iran nuclear deal

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Lebanese figures offer mixed reactions to Iran nuclear deal
The Daily Star/Apr. 03, 2015

BEIRUT: Mixed reactions greeted the preliminary nuclear agreement reached between Iran and the West Thursday, with Lebanon’s interior minister playing down the importance of the deal and Hezbollah praising it. “There is no final agreement yet between the West and Iran,” Machnouk told local television channel LBC. “It’s only a tentative agreement.”

He said U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration “did not wish to leave [the nuclear talks] without an agreement, never mind if it’s not final or successful.””All the statements made by Westerners, whether French or German or European or American, had given me the impression that what happened today [Thursday] was meant to keep the door open until June 30,” Machnouk, who belongs to the Future Movement, added.

Iran and world powers reached a framework agreement on Thursday on curbing Iran’s nuclear program for at least a decade. The initial agreement, after eight days of marathon talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, clears the way for negotiations on a settlement aimed at allaying Western fears that Iran was seeking to build an atomic bomb and in return lift economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

The framework is contingent on reaching an agreement by June 30. All sanctions on Iran remain in place until a final deal. Hezbollah MP Walid Sukkarieh said the agreement was an achievement for Tehran.

“What happened was a gain for Iran, because it ensured the survival of its nuclear program … and its right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes, and this was exactly what [Iran] was looking for from the beginning,” Sukkarieh said.

He believed Obama has spared the Middle East region a war through the nuclear agreement. “If no agreement was reached the situation was headed toward confrontation just as Netanyahu desired.”Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said Lebanon would stand to gain from the nuclear agreement, which he described as an “important step” toward resolving the crises in the region.

Berri, who is a member of the Amal movement which is allied to Hezbollah, also expressed hope that the world would increase its concern with solving Lebanon’s political crisis since it is the “least complicated” of all regional issues.

Former MP Mustafa Alloush, a leading figure in Saad Hariri’s Future Movement, echoed similar remarks made by Machnouk.

“The final deal has yet to be reached,” Alloush said. “Things are not over yet. Congress did not agree to the lifting of sanctions [on Iran] and we have to see the reaction of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and whether or not it would approve the agreement.”

Congress greeted news of the tentative deal with criticism from most Republicans and optimism from most Democrats.

In response to a question on how the nuclear deal would affect Lebanon, Alloush said: “As long as Hezbollah’s weapons are present in Lebanon nothing will change.”He said the Future Movement has nothing to do with Iran’s nuclear issue. “Our concern at the local level, however, is the presence of illegal arms supported by Iran.”

“For his part, President Barack Obama won over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” Alloush added.

March 14 official Fares Soeid said Thursday “is a blessed day,” calling the U.S.-Iran deal a “gain for the international legitimacy.”“It’s also a victory for Iran if it agreed to succumb to the legitimate [rule],” he said. Soeid expressed hope that the Iran deal would have a positive impact in Lebanon.