Senators Oppose Relaxing Iran Sanctions

Wednesday, 20 Nov 2013 11:08 AM

By Courtney Coren

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A bipartisan group of six senators has told the Obama Administration not to accept a deal with Iran that would lighten the economic sanctions without requiring Tehran to undo the progress it has made in its nuclear program.

"We feel strongly that any easing of sanctions … should require Iran to roll back its nuclear program more significantly than now envisioned," the senators wrote Tuesday in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry. "It is our belief that any interim agreement with the Iranians should bring us closer to our ultimate goal which is Iran without a nuclear weapons capability."

The letter comes after President Barack Obama, Kerry, and National Security Adviser Susan Rice met with senators from both parties before talks are set to resume in Geneva Wednesday on Iran's nuclear program, The Washington Post reported.

"We must ensure that the steps we take in the coming weeks and months move us toward a resolution that ultimately brings Iran in compliance with all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions, seeks to prevent Tehran from possessing any enrichment or reprocessing capability, and resolves any and all fears that Iran will develop a nuclear weapons capability," the group added.

The letter was signed by Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer of New York, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, and Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John McCain of Arizona, and Susan Collins of Maine.

Schumer, Menendez, and McCain attended the White House meeting.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also attended the meeting and told reporters that Obama had asked the group to hold off for "a period of time" on seeking additional sanctions against Iran while the administration is in the midst of negotiations.

"There was a strong meeting and a lot of questions were asked and a lot of questions were answered," said McCorker, the Washington Examiner reported. "You had some folks in the room that were satisfied, you had some folks in the room who were unsatisfied."

White House press secretary Jay Carney confirmed that "there was a diversity of opinion in the room," but that Obama assured the top lawmakers that if changes in Iranian sanctions were agreed upon at the United Nations meeting, they would be "limited, temporary, and reversible."

"All all of us are concerned because we know who we're dealing with — we watched this same activity from North Korea," Corker added. "I think what the concern is — whatever you do on the interim basis becomes the new norm."

Iran conceded Wednesday  prior to the talks in Geneva with the "P5+1" group — the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany — that while its right to enrich uranium is "nonnegotiable," there is "no necessity for its recognition as a right," said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

This move was considered a significant concession.

It was reported in early November that Obama began easing economic sanctions on Iran after Hassan Rouhani was elected president in June.

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