President Barack Obama has urged U.S. lawmakers to give diplomacy with Iran a chance after agreements with Tehran cleared the way during the weekend for a six-month interim nuclear deal to go into force next week.
Obama said in Washington on January 13 that the interim agreement with Iran offers a “door of opportunity.”
His remarks come as some U.S. lawmakers are calling for new sanctions against Iran, despite warnings they could doom the diplomatic initiative.
Obama reiterated that if Tehran fails to live up to its obligations under the interim agreement, which calls for Iran to freeze aspects of its nuclear program in return for limited relief from sanctions, he would support new punitive measures against Iran.
Co-sponsors of draft legislation in Washington that would impose fresh sanctions against Iran say the agreement reached during the weekend with Tehran to begin implementing the interim nuclear deal on January 20 makes it harder for those who want further sanctions to attract support.
Sixteen of Obama's fellow Democrats are among the co-sponsors of the measure, which would require further cuts in Iran's oil exports if Tehran backs away from the interim agreement.
Iran has warned that it would back away from the negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear deal if any new sanctions were imposed.
U.S. State Department officials met in Washington on January 13 with lawmakers to discuss the diplomatic track with Iran.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said that U.S. lawmakers would soon get a classified briefing on details about the agreement with Iran.
"The technical understandings reached as part of the implementation plan are being transmitted to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency]," Carney said. "In tandem with this action, we are working with the P5+1, the EU, and the IAEA on releasing as much information to the public as we can about the technical arrangements. We fully expect to be able to share the text of the plan with the Congress and are working with our international partners on how much and when we can share the information publicly and in what format."
The so-called P5+1 comprises the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States -- plus Germany.
Carney also reiterated Washington’s insistence that the diplomatic track must move beyond the interim agreement during the next six months in order to reach a comprehensive agreement with Iran.
"We're very confident Tehran understands that failure to abide by its commitments in the implementation agreement, or failure to reach comprehensive resolution, would result in action by the United States and by the international community," Carney said. "And the second part is important because one of the reasons not to take action here in the United States through Congress is that it could threaten to do harm to the international consensus that we have built. That international consensus is one of the foundations behind the comprehensiveness and the effectiveness of the sanctions regime."
Critics think Iran’s nuclear program is aimed at building the capability to make nuclear weapons. Tehran insists it is entirely for peaceful civilian purposes but has repeatedly been accused by the UN's nuclear watchdog of misleading the international community and a lack of disclosure.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she intends to accept an invitation to visit Tehran in the coming weeks.
Ashton hailed the interim deal and said it is important for the agreement to now translate into "practical things" that need to be done.
"It is an important agreement and I hope this will give us an opportunity to move forward and to look at a more comprehensive agreement shortly," she said.
Based on reports by Reuters, AP, and AFP