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Kerry Warns: New Sanctions May Hurt Talks with Iran

Secretary of State tells Senate banking committee that new sanctions on Iran risk ruining talks over its nuclear program.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 11/14/2013, 3:13 AM

John Kerry
John Kerry
Flash 90

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday that any new sanctions against Iran would risk ruining talks over Tehran's nuclear program, reports the BBC.

He told a Senate banking committee that the U.S. might lose negotiating partners if it imposed economic penalties, according to the report.

The panel has been considering a fresh package of sanctions, but legislators are divided on the measure. The Obama administration has urged the Senate to hold off on further sanctions against Iran to let diplomacy run its course.

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.

Earlier this week, the lawmakers agreed to wait before passing new sanctions until Kerry’s briefing with the banking committee.

Before Wednesday's closed-door meeting with senators, Washington's top diplomat told reporters, according to the BBC, "What we're asking everybody to do is calm down, look hard at what can be achieved and what the realities are."

None of the differences between P5+1 - the U.S., UK, France, Russia and China plus Germany - and Iran over its nuclear program are big enough to prevent agreement, Kerry has previously said.

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. 

Kerry told the BBC on Tuesday that none of the differences between world powers and Iran over its nuclear program are big enough to prevent agreement. He said they came "extremely close" to a deal at the weekend in Geneva, but added that the rest of the world had to be certain that Iran was not pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

"We were very very close actually, extremely close," Kerry said.

While some reports said the latest talks failed because France had wanted to place tight restrictions on Iran's heavy-water plant being built in Arak, the BBC quoted “U.S. diplomats” as saying that the Iranian government's insistence on formal recognition of its "right" to enrich uranium had been the major obstacle.

Iran has denied this version of what happened. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded to earlier statements in the same vein by Kerry, writing on his Twitter account that it was the United States – not Iran – that backed out of the deal.

"Mr. Secretary, was it Iran that gutted over half of U.S. draft Thursday night? and publicly commented against it Friday morning?" Zarif tweeted.