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Senate to Hold Off on Iran Sanctions Pending Kerry Briefing

U.S. lawmakers will wait until after a briefing by Secretary of State John Kerry before deciding on new sanctions on Iran.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 11/12/2013, 3:42 AM

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
Flash 90

U.S. lawmakers will wait until after a briefing by Secretary of State John Kerry this week before deciding whether to impose tough new sanctions on Iran because of its nuclear program, Senate aides told Reuters on Monday.

Kerry will brief the Senate Banking Committee on Wednesday on the status of negotiations for a deal on the nuclear program.

The White House offered no immediate comment on the administration's plans to brief lawmakers. The Obama administration has urged the Senate to hold off on further sanctions against Iran to let diplomacy run its course.

Senator Tim Johnson, the Senate Banking Committee's chairman, will not make a decision on how to proceed until after that meeting.

"Members of the Banking Committee are going to be briefed on the Geneva negotiations by Secretary of State Kerry later this week, and Chairman Johnson will not make a decision on additional sanctions until he has had a chance to consult with his colleagues following the briefing," a banking committee aide said, according to Reuters.

A package of tighter sanctions has been making its way through Congress.

Members of both the Republican and Democratic parties have overwhelmingly backed tougher economic pressure on Iran in recent years amid concern it is closing in on nuclear weapons capability.

Several weeks ago, a group of Senators from both parties called on Iran to end all its uranium enrichment activity and pushed for a speedy escalation of sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

The Senate Banking panel has been considering whether to act on legislation hitting Iran’s oil industry. The House overwhelmingly passed such legislation in July, but the White House has been urging Senate Democrats to hold off while multilateral talks on Iran’s nuclear program continue.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was among several top officials from the Obama administration who personally met Senators last week in a bid to persuade it not to impose new sanctions on Iran.

The fear is that Congress could upset a rare opportunity to pursue a diplomatic resolution to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

Talks with Iran and other world powers failed to culminate in an agreement this past weekend, but the talks are set to resume on November 20.