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U.S. Senate Panel Backs Bill Giving Congress Say On Iran Nuclear Deal

  • RFE/RL

U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement at the White House in Washington on April 2, after the framework of a deal was reached on Iran's nuclear program.

U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement at the White House in Washington on April 2, after the framework of a deal was reached on Iran's nuclear program.

A U.S. Senate panel has unanimously approved a bill that would empower Congress to review a potential deal to curb Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

President Barack Obama, who had originally threatened to veto such legislation, dropped his opposition in the face of bipartisan support.

Israel voiced satisfaction, saying giving U.S. lawmakers a voice would help prevent "a bad deal" from being signed with Iran.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 19-0 on April 14 in favor of an amended version of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, after Democrats and Republicans reached a compromise on the measure.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the same day that if the proposed changes make it through the legislative process, it "would be the kind of compromise the president would be willing to sign."

Iran and six world powers -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany -- agreed in Lausanne, Switzerland, on April 2 on a framework for a final agreement that would limit Iran's nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

The negotiators have set a June 30 deadline for a final deal.

Western powers fear Iran's nuclear program aims at creating nuclear weapons. Tehran says its nuclear activities are purely peaceful.

The U.S. bill, which now heads to a full Senate debate and vote, sets up a 30-day congressional review period if Obama submits the full text of a final agreement on Iran's nuclear program by July 9.

If a deal is submitted after that date, the review period would be extended to 60 days.

During the review period, Obama would be able to lift sanctions levied through presidential action, but would be blocked from easing sanctions imposed by Congress.

"Let's send a message to Tehran that sanctions relief is not a given and not a prize for signing on the dotted line," Democratic Senator Robert Menendez told the committee.

The text also requires the president to certify to Congress every 90 days that Iran is complying with terms of any final agreement.

The bill is now likely to clear both houses in the Republican-controlled Congress.

After his arrival for a G7 meeting in Luebeck, Germany, on April 15, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he was "confident about our ability...to negotiate an agreement and to do so with the ability to make the world safer."

Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz told Israel Radio on April 15 that giving U.S. lawmakers a say on a final nuclear deal with Iran would be "a very important element in preventing a bad deal, or at least, in improving the agreement and making it more reasonable."

Israel has repeatedly warned it fears a deal would to too little to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, and dpa
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