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John Kerry: Iran agreement is "a lifetime deal"

VIENNA, Austria -- Secretary of State John Kerry praised the agreement between six world powers and Iran on its nuclear program as "a lifetime deal" Tuesday.

In an interview with CBS News, Kerry said that the deal has components that extend well beyond the decade-long freeze on its nuclear program. For instance, there are 15-year regulations on the size of Iran's nuclear stockpile, and he also noted that "their centrifuges will be actively tracked for 20 years, and the tracking of their uranium production system is a 25-year component."

He added, "Forever - they have to live by the highest levels of scrutiny, of access and accountability and verification that exists anywhere in the world." He was referring to fact that under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran will be permanently banned from developing a nuclear weapon.

One of the thorniest issues of the negotiations involved access to Iran's military sites, which U.S. officials and lawmakers wanted, but which Iran opposed outright until this round of talks was well underway. Still, in the final agreement, there is no automatic guarantee that inspectors will have access to all military sites, which may prove to be a difficult sell to Congress.

But Kerry defended this portion of the agreement, saying, "There is an absolute guarantee under the IAEA process...and we have a dispute resolution mechanism in here which no - has never - has not occurred previously."

That process, however, has caused fears that Iran could stall in providing access. According to the "managed access" agreed upon, inspectors can ask for sites considered to be suspicious, and Iran would consider granting access. If the request is denied, inspectors can appeal to a board consisting of the world powers who brokered the deal and Iran. Kerry said that the U.S. can go to the Security Council, that it has "all kind of ways to press accountability here."

He continued, "But you have to hopefully bring the global community with you...We have the support of Russian, China, Great Britain, France, Germany. If we suddenly went off by ourselves and said "No" to this [deal], we not only lose the support of the international community, we're going to lose the access, lose the accountability. We have no mechanism, and Iran goes off and does what it wants. Nobody can tell me how we are better off with that."

Another sticking point in the talks concerned Iran's ability to buy conventional weapons in as little as five years. While that time period fell short of what the U.S. wanted, Kerry said it was longer than what other nations wanted. "Here's the bottom line," he said. "Seven nations were negotiating. Three of the seven nations were in favor of no embargo whatsoever - let 'em do what they're doing now. Four wanted to keep it, and so we kept it for the period of time that we could negotiate, understanding also that the Security Council resolution on which all of these is based actually contemplated that if Iran came to the table and negotiated, all the sanctions would be lifted."

Although the U.S. and Iran have been negotiating this agreement for months now, there are still not formal diplomatic relations between the two countries. Asked whether he thought this might be an opening to more work with Iran in the future, Kerry said, "it is way too early to predict. This is a nuclear deal. What we did here is an effort to stop them from having a nuclear weapon."

  • Margaret Brennan

    Principally assigned to the State Department, Margaret Brennan also serves as a CBS News general assignment correspondent based in Washington, D.C.