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Kerry Urges Congress To Hold Back On Iran Sanctions

  • RFE/RL

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says any move by Congress to impose new sanctions on Iran could derail ongoing diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful solution to the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.

Kerry made the comments on November 13 before a closed door briefing with the Senate Banking Committee, which is considering new penalties on Tehran for its suspect nuclear program.

Kerry said the United States and other world powers support an interim deal with Iran that would provide limited sanctions relief in return for nuclear concessions.

"We put these sanctions in place in order to be able to put us in the strongest position possible to be able to negotiate. We now are negotiating and the risk is that if Congress was to unilaterally move to raise sanctions, it could break faith with those negotiations and actually stop them and break them apart," Kerry said.

Iran has long denied Western claims that its nuclear program is being used to produce atomic weapons.

Afterwards, some members of the committee expressed disappointment.

Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said that senators were given no details of the interim deal being drafted at negotiations between Iran and world powers in Geneva this month.

Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) said the presentation by Kerry and other senior officials was "very unconvincing."

Earlier, House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Ed Royce (R-Ca) said, "The Iranian regime hasn't paused its nuclear program. Why should we pause our sanctions efforts as the administration is pressuring Congress to do?"

Democratic and Republican lawmakers are divided on whether to allow more time for diplomacy.

Obama, Hollande Discuss Iran Talks

In related news, President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande discussed the ongoing nuclear talks with Iran via telephone.

After the call on November 13, the White House said the United States and France are in "full agreement" regarding a deal proposed by world powers to Iran.

The French president's office said the two leaders had expressed their "shared determination to obtain from Iran guarantees that it is definitely abandoning its military nuclear program."

After an inconclusive round of talks last week, there was speculation about disagreements among the six world powers -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany -- that have been in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear activities.

U.S. officials later said it was Iran who could not agree to a deal, something Iran disputed.

The talks are due to resume next week.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP