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The Latest: Moniz: Kerry talked with Iran about Americans

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is also Iran's top nuclear negotiator, center, shakes hands with an official upon arrival at the Mehrabad airport in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Zarif and his entourage returned to Tehran on Wednesday morning, a day after Iran and the West reached a historic nuclear deal. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Here are the latest developments involving the agreement between the United States, Iran and world powers to limit the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program (all times EDT):


9:25 a.m.

Vice President Joe Biden is on Capitol Hill meeting with House Democrats to brief them on the Iran nuclear deal.

Asked whether he has to sell the deal, Biden told reporters Wednesday morning: “I’m here to answer questions and explain what the deal is and I’m confident they’ll like it when they understand it all.”

He was greeted with applause when he entered the closed-door session.

8:27 a.m.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, a physicist who participated in the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna, says Secretary of State John Kerry broached the issue of Americans still being held in Iran. Even though the main purpose of the talks was to find common ground on the nuclear program, Moniz says Kerry “never failed to raise the issue of Americans held unjustly in Iran.”

Moniz also told CNN that the nuclear agreement has stronger restrictions on Iran “than would be the case if we had no agreement.”

He says the agreement provides protection against cheating by Iran. He added “we have bought considerable time to respond” should Iran not live up to its commitments.


8:25 a.m.

Israel’s ambassador to the United States says he doesn’t believe President Barack Obama “tried to hoodwink Israel” with the nuclear deal. He said the U.S. and Israel simply have “an honest policy difference.”

Ron Dermer tells CNN says the agreement’s 24-day advance notice for inspections by the U.N. nuclear agency gives Iran far too much time to conceal its activities.

Dermer says the deal is that the agreement “does not block Iran’s path to the bomb” but “paves it.” He says that will endanger Israel.


7:43 a.m.

Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, tells CNN that the agreement reached in Vienna is worse than he feared because it will keep Iran’s nuclear program in place.

Cotton calls the pact “a massive gamble on the hope that Iran will change in the next eight to 10 years.” Cotton argues that “the text of the deal explicitly says the West will help Iran protect their nuclear capabilities from sabotage.”

He apparently was referring to assurances given Iran that inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency wouldn’t engage in sabotage.

Cotton says he believes “the American people will repudiate this deal and Congress will therefore reject it.” The Iraq war veteran says the U.S. will have to “restore the credible threat of military force” if necessary and re-impose sanctions.


7:35 a.m.

Donald Trump says the Iran nuclear deal is “a disgrace.” The Republican presidential candidate says the U.S. “should have doubled up the sanctions” on the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program.

Instead, he said in an interview Wednesday on MSNBC, “we were dealing from desperation.”


7:05 a.m.

Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Lindsey Graham called the Iran nuclear agreement “a terrible idea.”

“Anybody could have done better,” he said in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show.

The South Carolina senator said it’s a fantasy to believe that when the Iranians chant “Death to Israel,” they are “just kidding.” He said the U.S. is “taking the largest state sponsor of terrorism” and giving them more weapons.

Graham said he intends to introduce legislation that would restrict Iran’s ability to purchase weapons technology.


7:03 a.m.

Israel’s center-left opposition leader Isaac Herzog will travel to Washington to discuss his country’s concerns over the Iranian nuclear deal, a spokesman said Wednesday. It’s the first sign of Israeli diplomatic action in response to the agreement.

There is widespread objection in Israel to the deal, and it dealt a heavy blow to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who spent years trying to prevent it.

Herzog’s spokesman, Ofer Newman, told The Associated Press that in Washington, Herzog will “explain what the problem is with the agreement” and discuss its security implications.

Netanyahu’s coalition partners and opposition leaders angrily criticized the agreement, saying it will give Iran the capability to achieve nuclear weapons. Israeli leaders say a nuclear Iran is an existential threat to Israel because Iranian leaders have called for Israel’s destruction.


6:50 a.m.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright hailed the deal, saying it would be a stabilizing force in the Mideast.

She acknowledged furious opposition in some quarters, even from President Barack Obama’s fellow Democrats, but said the agreement is not about trusting the Iranians.

Albright also said that U.S. officials “must keep their eye on the ball” when it comes to following through on the verification regimes provided in the agreement. Albright, who served as secretary of state during the Clinton administration, said thorough and detailed scrutiny of the pact by the Congress is justified.

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