World MIDDLE EAST

Iranians celebrate nuclear deal progress in streets, on social media

Crawling through Tehran’s notoriously congested streets early Friday, hundreds of drivers honked their horns while passengers waved flags and hung out of car windows to celebrate a tentative nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers.

“Thank you, Zarif!” they chanted, referring to Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif.

In a celebration that began just before midnight Thursday, locals of all ages crowded in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Iranian capital, standing with friends and family to mark the accord, which coincided with Sizdah Bedar -- the 13th and final day of Persian New Year celebrations. The day symbolizes the casting off of bad luck and stepping into the new year with a fresh start.

Much of the crowd had returned from New Year festivities at a nearby park, only to find more reason to celebrate.

“We should rush to the airport to welcome Zarif and his team for the great job they have done,” Mitra Bayat said.

The preliminary agreement sets the stage for three more months of international diplomacy aimed at reaching an accord that would ease economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for limits on its ability to build a nuclear weapon.

Iran’s state-run media called the agreement a success, but conservatives said they were worried that it calls for a gradual lifting of sanctions instead of removing the restrictions all at once.

“We gave a perfectly saddled horse and in return they gave us broken reins,” Hossein Shariatmadari, of the conservative Iranian newspaper Kayhan, told Iran’s semiofficial Fars News Agency, using a traditional Iranian saying for a bad deal.

Nader Karimi Juni, a political analyst, said he wasn’t surprised to hear people poured into the streets -- he expects both celebrations and protests to continue.

“Critics may shout, ‘Death to Zarif!’, but it would be in vain,” he said. “The majority of people have thrown their weight behind the agreement.”

Iranians have been glued to their television sets and social media for days, eager for any update on a potential deal. So when news of the tentative agreement broke, the public quickly took to the Internet.

Iran's state television broadcast President Obama's speech live on Thursday -- a move many Iranians called unprecedented.

Some activists said Iran’s negotiators were wise and prudent in their decision to work with world powers to “defend national interests.”

“After 18 months of hope and monitoring the news minute by minute,” Parvin Salajegheh wrote on Facebook, “I can have a sound sleep.”

Special correspondent Mostaghim reported from Tehran and Times staff writer Parvini from Los Angeles.

Twitter: @ParviniParlance

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