April 22, 2015 / 11:51 PM / 4 years ago

CERAWEEK-U.S. energy secretary touts nuclear deal with Iran

(New throughout, adds more Moniz comments)

By Ernest Scheyder

HOUSTON, April 22 (Reuters) - An agreement between the United States, Iran and other world powers designed to curtail Iran’s nuclear program is effective and would work if implemented, U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz said on Wednesday.

“I think we’ve established a very strong set of parameters around the agreement,” Moniz said at the IHS CERAWeek conference in Houston, the world’s largest gathering of oil executives. “It’s a long term process with constraints coming off at various time frames as confidence improves” in Iran’s nuclear intentions.

A framework agreement that would curb Iran’s nuclear program for at least 10 years was announced earlier this month. The deal must be finalized by June.

Moniz was intimately involved in the nuclear minutia of the 8-day discussions. He told the conference he negotiated through the night at one point with Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi on nuclear centrifuges, reactor design, uranium stockpiles and other issues, ending at 6 a.m.

Moniz, a nuclear physicist who was appointed by President Obama two years ago, noted it was his specialty that led him to assist Secretary of State John Kerry in negotiations.

“It was not part of the description of the job when I signed up,” Moniz said. Historically, U.S. energy secretaries do not get involved in foreign policy.

Both Moniz and Salehi attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a commonality that Moniz said helped draw them closer during negotiations.

“It was very clear that we were there to solve problems,” he said. “It was not about posturing.”

The negotiations were a main talking point earlier in the week at the conference when Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, said Obama should not dare lift sanctions on Iran before scrapping the U.S. crude export ban.

It was a theme echoed by executives at Hess Corp and others at the conference, as well. (Reporting by Ernest Scheyder)

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