Joy, relief in Iran as nuclear deal promises end to sanctions

An Iranian flag flutters in front of the United Nations headquarters.
HEINZ-PETER BADER/REUTERS

An Iranian flag flutters in front of the United Nations headquarters.

Iranians reacted with delight and relief as they digested news of a landmark nuclear deal sealed with world powers, an accord which promises to end years of bruising economic sanctions.

"We have been waiting for it for so long," Amir Tehrani, a 34-year-old English teacher, said in Tehran on Tuesday. "I just hope that the pressure on our lives and on the cost of living will be reduced."

Diplomats reached an agreement overnight following marathon negotiations in Vienna. The accord will curb Iran's nuclear program in return for a lifting of restrictions that slashed oil exports in half and cut the country off from global finance. While full implementation may take months, the oil-rich nation will be able to ramp up its energy exports and lure global investors.

"It's wonderful news, we've all been up since last night and all of my co-workers have been checking the news every second on the Internet," said Parviz Karimi, a marketing manager at Blue Gulf Shipping in Tehran, which has seen its business plummet under sanctions. "We know that the big changes won't happen immediately, but the flow of work will be better and faster."

Iran's economy is 15 to 20 per cent smaller than it would have been without the sanctions imposed after 2010, according to a January report by the Congressional Research Service.

Since taking office nearly two years ago, President Hassan Rouhani has slowed inflation to about 15 per cent , from more than 40 per cent when the effects of the sanctions reached their peak under the previous government, and returned the economy to growth. Yet for most in Iran, where youth unemployment hovers around 25 per cent , life remains tough.

'MUCH HOPE'

"Happiness, that's all I can say," said Golbahar Hassanabadi , a 29-year-old artist living in the city of Karaj on the outskirts of Tehran. "These past few days I was very stressed that it wouldn't happen, and now I have so much hope."

Iran's Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said on Monday that while no formal preparations had been made for celebrations, police and security forces have been instructed to accommodate crowds who are widely expected to come out and celebrate this evening.

"I'm so happy, I've been praying for this for so long," said 71-year-old retiree Mina, who lives in a downtown district of Tehran and didn't want to give her surname because of the sensitivity surrounding speaking to the foreign media. "The people are definitely going to pour onto the streets tonight."

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Others, including Mohammad-Reza Eini , a documentary filmmaker based in Tehran, were more restrained.

"I'm a bit suspicious," said Eini, 30. "I want to enjoy the news, but I can't be that hopeful because of the political situation in the country — they've been talking about it so long and I still can't work out whether I will benefit."

Conservative hardliners have opposed Rouhani's engagement with the US, a longtime foe, arguing he is conceding too much ground and risking the country's sovereignty. The deal reached in Vienna will also meet resistance in the US Congress where lawmakers have 60 days to review the document.

 - Bloomberg

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