U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has appealed to U.S. lawmakers not to impose new sanctions on Tehran as world powers implement a six-month first-step deal toward seeking a comprehensive agreement with Iran to curb its nuclear program.
Kerry told the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs on December 10 that "we are asking you to give our negotiators and our experts the time and the space to do their jobs."
"We stopped their program and we eliminated the 20 percent [uranium enrichment] and rolled back their breakout time, enlarged it, while we move toward the final negotiations," Kerry said.
"Now, the final negotiation is going to be in conjunction with all of our partners, and whatever we do it has got to make Israel safer, it has got to make the world safer, it can't threaten the [United Arab] Emirates, it can't threaten Saudi Arabia, it can't threaten the region."
He also said that if the confidence-building deal agreed last month falters, the U.S. administration will ask Congress for more sanctions against Iran.
Republicans and Democrats on the influential committee raised questions about whether the November 24 deal reached in Geneva adequately restricts Iran's nuclear program in exchange for some sanctions relief for Tehran.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has warned any new sanctions would kill the deal.
Considering More Sanctions
The Republican House passed a new package of sanctions by a vote of 400 to 20 at the end of July. That bill seeks to cut Iran's oil exports to near zero over the course of a year to try to reduce the flow of funds to the nuclear program.
However, the Democratic-led Senate has moved much more slowly, in part due to urging from the Obama administration.
Kerry's congressional testimony came just hours after senior Iranian officials suggested progress was being made in implementing the interim deal at talks in Vienna.
Officials from Iran, the United States, China, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, the European Union, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are attending the meeting in the Austrian capital.
Western diplomats said detailed matters not addressed in Geneva last month must be ironed out before the deal can be put into practice.
These include how and when the IAEA -- which regularly visits Iranian nuclear sites to try to ensure there are no diversions of atomic material -- will carry out its expanded role.
U.S. President Barack Obama has recently played down the chances of reaching a final comprehensive deal with Iran, putting the chances of success at 50-50 or worse.
Still, Obama has defended diplomacy as the best way to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Iran denies it is using its nuclear program to secretly develop nuclear weapons.