Rep. Ed Royce wants to know what the White House response will be to claims by Iran that it plans to continue and expand plutonium production after striking a recent nuclear deal with the United States.
"Does this mean the administration is going to ignore this? Is it going to continue to unravel sanctions? Reboot the economy in Iran, and eventually allow them undetectable breakout capability for their nuclear program?" the California Republican asked on Fox News' "America's Newsroom" on Tuesday.
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Royce said he would ask those questions of Secretary of State John Kerry at a hearing Tuesday of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The committee, which Royce chairs, is examining the recent agreement.
The United States and its allies entered into a six-month interim agreement with Tehran in November that called for easing sanctions in exchange for Iran's limiting its nuclear activities. The deal was struck amid controversy among some lawmakers who wanted an increase in sanctions.
Royce said he did not think President Barack Obama's administration knew Iranian officials intended to expand their plutonium production program. He said he wanted to ask Kerry how recent comments by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif affect the agreement just made.
"In terms of the plutonium program, it would be so irresponsible for us not to point out that this is already in the written interim agreement. What in the world does the . . . foreign minister mean saying that they're going to continue construction?" Royce asked.
The House voted in July on a bipartisan bill Royce sponsored to impose a tough new round of sanctions on Iran. The Senate has yet to vote on the measure. Royce said the sanctions "would have probably imploded the economy in Iran, or given the Ayatollah [Ali Khamenei] a choice between true compromise on his program or economic collapse."
The bill is in the Senate, and Royce indicated he was unsure whether it would be brought to a vote. He indicated he didn't think the White House favored sanctions, preferring instead to avoid the "hard consequence of confrontation."
Royce said sanctions provide a psychological and legal edge that conveys, "If you do not comply with any interim agreement, this is going to come down hard."
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