VIENNA • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani yesterday hailed the lifting of international sanctions on his country as a "golden page" in the country's history which represented a "new chapter" in ties with the world.
But in an address to Parliament, he noted bitter opposition to Saturday's lifting of economic curbs from arch foe Israel, some members of the US Congress and those he called "warmongers" in the region - an apparent reference to some of Iran's Gulf Arab adversaries.
"The nuclear negotiations, which succeeded by the guidance of the Supreme Leader and support of our nation, were truly a golden page in Iran's history," he said. "The nuclear deal is an opportunity that we should use to develop the country, improve the welfare of the nation, and create stability and security in the region," Mr Rouhani said.
The United States and European nations have lifted oil and financial sanctions on Iran and released roughly US$100 billion (S$144 billion) of its assets after international inspectors concluded that the country had followed through on promises to dismantle large sections of its nuclear programme.
This came at the end of a day of high drama that played out in a diplomatic dance across Europe and the Middle East just hours after Teheran and Washington swopped long-held prisoners.
WORLD IS SAFER...
Today... the United States, our friends and allies in the Middle East, and the entire world are safer because the threat of the nuclear weapon has been reduced.
MR JOHN KERRY, US Secretary of State
...NO, IT'S NOT
Even after the signing of the nuclear agreement, Iran has not abandoned its aspirations to acquire nuclear weapons, and continues to act to destabilise the Middle East and spread terrorism throughout the world while violating its international commitments.
MR BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Israeli Prime Minister, in a statement
CREDIT TO OBAMA
These are important steps that make the United States, our allies, and the entire world safer. I congratulate President Obama and his team, and I'm proud of the role I played to get this process started.
MRS HILLARY CLINTON, US Democratic presidential candidate
They're getting seven people, so essentially they get US$150 billion plus seven, and we get four. I'm happy they're coming back, but I will tell you it's a disgrace they've been there so long.
MR DONALD TRUMP, US Republican presidential hopeful, on prisoner swap
This achievement clearly demonstrates that with political will, perseverance, and through multilateral diplomacy, we can solve the most difficult issues.
MS FEDERICA MOGHERINI, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini
Years of patient and persistent diplomacy, and difficult technical work, have borne fruit as we now implement the deal.
MR PHILIP HAMMOND, British Foreign Secretary
Five Americans, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, were released from prison right after the nuclear accord was implemented.
The detention of one of the released Americans, Mr Matthew Trevithick, who had been engaged in language studies in Teheran when he was arrested, according to his family, had never been publicly announced. Mr Rezaian and three others flew out of Teheran, but one of the other former prisoners chose to remain in Iran.
The Iranians beat, by months, the US Central Intelligence Agency and Energy Department estimates of how long it would take them to dismantle the far-flung elements of its nuclear empire, a long checklist that occupies scores of pages in the nuclear accord.
"They were highly motivated to get it done," said a US official who was closely involved, because Mr Rouhani wanted money flowing into Iran, and more oil flowing out, before a critical election next month.
Britain welcomed the deal's implementation, as did France, which said it would keep a close eye out to ensure that Iran's nuclear deal with diplomatic powers is strictly respected. Japan plans to lift most of its sanctions against Iran, including a halt to fresh investments in Iranian oil and gas projects,"within a few days", a Foreign Ministry official said.
"Iran has undertaken significant steps that many people - and I do mean many - doubted would ever come to pass," Secretary of State John Kerry said last Saturday evening at the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which earlier issued a report detailing how Iran had shipped 98 per cent of its fuel to Russia, dismantled more than 12,000 centrifuges so they could not enrich uranium, and poured cement into the core of a reactor designed to produce plutonium.
But Mr Kerry was clearly energised by the release of the Americans, an issue he took up on the edges of almost every nuclear negotiation, and pursued in a separate, secret set of talks that many involved in the nuclear issue were only vaguely aware was happening.
The release of the "unjustly detained" Americans, as Mr Kerry put it, came at some cost: Seven Iranians, either convicted or charged with breaking US embargoes, were released in the prisoner swop, and 14 others were removed from international wanted lists.
The Obama administration on Saturday also removed 400 Iranians and others from its sanctions list and took a series of other steps to lift selected restrictions on interactions with Iran. Another 200 people, however, will remain on the sanctions list for other reasons.
Under the new rules put in place, the US will no longer sanction foreign individuals or firms for buying oil and gas from Iran. The US trade embargo remains in place, but the government will permit certain limited business activities with Iran.
NEW YORK TIMES, REUTERS