WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama sought Wednesday to defend a ground-breaking deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program from a tide of criticism, saying “profound differences” would remain with the Islamic republic.

Amid fears Washington was seeking to cozy up to its long-time foe with a deal which would stand the test of time, Obama said: “Even with this deal, we will continue to have profound differences with Iran.”

“Iran still poses challenges to our interests and values,” the US leader told reporters, citing “its support of terrorism and its use of proxies to destabilize parts of the Middle East.”

Only a day after world powers agreed a deal after almost two years of negotiations to stop Iran acquiring a nuclear bomb, Obama went on the offensive to stop skeptics at home and abroad from seeking to derail the long-awaited accord. The agreement, signed on Tuesday after 18 days of marathon talks in Vienna, aims to roll back Tehran’s nuclear program in return for lifting sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy. It was hailed by the United States, the European Union, Iran and NATO - all of whom hope the deal will end decades of bad blood between the Middle East’s major Shiite Muslim power and the West - but branded a “historic mistake” by Tehran’s archfoe Israel.

“With this deal we cut off every single one of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear program,” Obama insisted at a White House press conference. “And Iran’s nuclear program will be under severe limits for many years. Without a deal, those pathways remain open.”

He insisted Iran’s nuclear program would be under unprecedented monitoring by the UN watchdog.

Obama agreed that “Israel has legitimate concerns about its security relative to Iran.” But he insisted that no one, including Israel, had provided a better alternative to the deal, and “all those threats are compounded if Iran gets a nuclear weapon. Washington was not seeking to “normalize diplomatic relations” with Iran. “Will we try to encourage them to take a more constructive path? Of course, but we’re not betting on it,” Obama said.

The United States Wednesday presented a draft resolution to the UN Security Council asking it to endorse the historic deal, which could be voted on as early as Monday or Tuesday, diplomats said.

The draft text seeks formal UN approval for the hard-won, ground-breaking agreement reached in Vienna on Tuesday after 18 days of talks.

The resolution would also replace the existing framework of Security Council sanctions with the restrictions set out in the agreement, under which Iran has dismantle or mothball much of its nuclear industry.

Meanwhile, the nuclear deal with world powers is a political victory for Iran, President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday, adding that the agreement meant Tehran would no longer be regarded as an international threat. “No one can say Iran surrendered,” Rouhani told a cabinet meeting broadcast on state television. “The deal is a legal, technical and political victory for Iran. It’s an achievement that Iran won’t be called a world threat any more.” Iran and six world powers reached a deal on Tuesday, capping more than a decade of negotiations with an agreement that could transform the Middle East.

Under the deal, sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union and the United Nations will be lifted in return for Iran agreeing long-term curbs on a nuclear programme that the West has suspected was aimed at creating a nuclear bomb. “No deal is perfect. There should be always compromise,” Rouhani said in his remarks to cabinet ministers. “It was really difficult to preserve some of our red lines. There was a time we doubted there could be a deal. It’s a historic deal and Iranians will be proud of it for generations to come.”

Among Iran’s main conditions, or “red lines”, at the talks were a refusal to accept a long freeze on nuclear research and development and a demand for a rapid lifting of sanctions. Meanwhile, Iran’s conservative-dominated parliament wants Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to brief it on a nuclear deal he negotiated with world powers and will examine the agreement in a “constructive spirit”, official media reported on Wednesday. Under the accord announced on Tuesday, international sanctions will be lifted in exchange for Iran agreeing to long-term curbs on a nuclear programme that the West and Israel have suspected was aimed at creating a nuclear bomb. Iran says its programme is for civilian purposes only.

Parliament speaker Ali Larijani said members of the assembly would scrutinise the deal’s text and annexes from both legal and technical aspects, the official IRNA news agency reported. “The MPs will look into the deal with a positive and constructive approach,” he was quoted as saying. “We will invite the foreign minister soon to tell us more about the talks and the deal.” While it is Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who has the last word on matters of state, any discussion in the assembly will shed light on sentiment inside the political establishment about the historic agreement.

Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to Khamenei, was quoted by the Fars news agency on July 10 as saying any deal reached in Vienna would be preliminary and should be approved by the National Security Council and later by Khamenei.

The parliament, alongside elements of the judiciary, armed forces and clerical establishment, strongly opposed making any meaningful concessions in the marathon negotiations, and is expected to seize on any perceived abuses by UN inspectors or Western powers in the coming months.

The head of parliament’s security committee, Mohammad Reza Mohseni Sani, said MPs would want to examine the implications of the deal for access to a military site at Parchin, saying there appeared to have been a “compromise”, Fars news agency reported.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, has repeatedly asked for access to Parchin, where it wants to investigate concerns that Iran has conducted experiments to assess how specific materials react under high pressure as in a nuclear blast. For months, Iran had been stalling a UN probe into the possible military aspects of its past nuclear activities, relating mostly to the period before 2003, saying the agency’s data for its investigation was fabricated

Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi told Iran’s ISNA news agency on Tuesday that the country’s red lines had been respected with regard to international access to Parchin. The IAEA said on Tuesday it had agreed a roadmap with Iran aimed at resolving all outstanding questions about the country’s nuclear programme by the end of the year.

Zarif and his negotiating team arrived back in Iran from Vienna on Wednesday, landing first in Mashhad to pray at the burial site of Imam Reza, Iran’s holiest Shi’ite Muslim shrine, before going on to Tehran.

“The resistance of our nation showed the world sanctions against Iran are futile,” he was quoted

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama telephoned King Salman of Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to discuss the newly completed Iran nuclear agreement and the situation in Yemen, the White House said.

Obama noted the United States’ commitment to working with its Gulf partners to counter Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region, promote stability and support “building the capabilities of our regional partners,” the White House said in a statement.

Both leaders also discussed the urgent need to stop the fighting in Yemen and ensure assistance for all Yemenis through international humanitarian channels.