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Late Saturday night at the White House, Mr. Obama said the tentative pact will “cut off Iran’s most likely paths to a bomb” and that the United States and its partners will not proceed with new sanctions that would scuttle the deal.

Mr. Kerry said that the choice for the U.S. was between taking this deal, or waiting and potentially letting Iran progress further. He said the latter was the option the Bush administration took, and in the 10 years since, Iran went from fewer than 200 centrifuges to 19,000, putting the nation much closer to a weapon.

The six-month interim deal offers Iran relief from sanctions that will be worth billions of dollars to the regime, in exchange for granting access to Iranian nuclear sites and a promise by that nation to reduce its enrichment of uranium.

Israel and other critics of the deal had wanted any agreement to undo Iran’s nuclear program.

Instead, the package rolls back but doesn’t eliminate Iran’s stockpile of enriched material by suspending all enrichment of uranium over 5 percent, and forcing the country to degrade its supply of 20 percent enriched uranium. Iran also agreed not to add any centrifuges, used to enrich uranium, to its supply, but it can replace those that become inoperable.

The nation also agreed not to begin operating the Arak reactor, which was considered to be a shortcut to the plutonium needed for a nuclear weapon.

Mr. Kerry said degrading Iran’s capability means if the country’s leaders decided to break the deal and try to create a bomb, it would take longer to do it.

“That means that whereas Iran today has about 200 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium, they could readily be enriched towards a nuclear weapon. In six months, Iran will have zero — zero,” he said.

In return, the countries that imposed sanctions will allow Iran to sell oil and collect $4.2 billion on the sale, and will lower sanctions that restricted the import of gold and materials for some industries, such as automobile manufacturing.

Mr. Kerry said even with the sanctions that will remain in place, Iran will still lose $25 billion in oil revenue during the six-month period of the deal.

Opponents, though, said the deal walks back key U.S. demands — particularly in allowing Iran to enrich uranium.

They said the amount of time added to an Iranian “breakout,” or production of a full bomb, has only been increased by several months. And they fretted that beginning to dismantle sanctions will make it harder to reimpose them — or to enhance them later — should Iran backslide.

Iran simply freezes its nuclear capabilities while we reduce the sanctions,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. “It was strong sanctions, not the goodness of the hearts of the Iranian leaders, that brought Iran to the table, and any reduction relieves the psychological pressure of future sanctions and gives them hope that they will be able to gain nuclear weapon capability while further sanctions are reduced.”

Mr. Schumer said the terms of the deal are so bad that it actually makes it more likely than ever that Congress will pass legislation stiffening the sanctions on Iran.

But White House spokesman Josh Earnest played down that possibility, saying that he believed Congress would hold off on stricter sanctions and give Mr. Obama room to operate.

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