President Barack Obama told lawmakers on Tuesday that Iran would make progress in its ability to build a nuclear weapon if there is no diplomatic deal to halt or roll back its nuclear program.
Obama met with congressmen as part of his ongoing bid to convince them to hold off on tightening sanctions against Tehran while talks continue.
"The president underscored that in the absence of a first step, Iran will continue to make progress on its nuclear program by increasing its enrichment capacity, continuing to grow its stockpile of enriched uranium, installing advanced centrifuges, and making progress on the plutonium track," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters at a briefing, according to Reuters.
Fox News reported that the president continued to face skeptical lawmakers worried that a proposed deal would go easy on Tehran.
The president, along with Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice, met with key senators for two hours to make their case on Iran, the report said.
According to Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., Obama asked lawmakers to pause for "a period of time." Corker said he doesn't anticipate Congress will act on Iran at least until after the Thanksgiving break.
After the meeting, six senators wrote to Kerry urging the administration not to accept any deal that would ease sanctions without rolling back Iran's progress toward gaining a nuclear weapon.
"If we are reducing sanctions, Iran should be reducing its nuclear capabilities," they wrote, specifically voicing concern that a proposal would let Iran access frozen capital without making major concessions in return.
According to Fox News, the letter was signed by Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Robert Menendez, D-N.J.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; Bob Casey, D-Pa.; and Susan Collins, R-Maine. They voiced support for the overall negotiations, though.
After Iran walked away from an earlier proposal, negotiators are to meet again starting Wednesday in Geneva in hopes of concluding a deal. On Monday, Kerry declined to predict if they would reach an agreement.
"I have no specific expectations with respect to the negotiations in Geneva except that we will negotiate in good faith and we will try to get a first-step agreement and hope that Iran will understand the importance of coming there prepared to create a document that can prove to the world that this is a peaceful program," he said.
Tuesday’s meetings will come days after Obama issued a public warning to Congress, saying that a deal in the works could prevent the "unintended consequences" of war.
Over the past few weeks, the President has sent his top officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, to meet with senators and convince them to drop their plans to impose new sanctions on Iran.
The talks have stirred concern not only from U.S. lawmakers but also from Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has warned that Iran would be getting the better end of the deal. This has resulted in a public war of words between Israel and America.
On Monday, Kerry said that Israel has "every right" to voice opposition to a potential nuclear deal with Iran but declared that Netanyahu’s fears were unfounded.