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U.S.: New Sanctions Will Thwart Diplomatic Talks with Iran

U.S. administration warns lawmakers that passing new sanctions on Iran would jeopardize negotiations on its nuclear program.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 11/27/2013, 1:14 AM

Money (illustration)
Money (illustration)
Flash 90

The U.S. administration on Tuesday stepped up its battle to thwart moves by lawmakers to tighten sanctions on Iran, AFP reports.

The administration warned that passing new sanctions on Iran would jeopardize tough negotiations on Tehran's nuclear program.

Secretary of State John Kerry videotaped a message to members of Congress warning against any new sanctions during the six-month period of talks foreseen by a deal struck last weekend in Geneva.

"He certainly understands that this will be a vigorous debate, though he believes that everything doesn't have to be a showdown," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was quoted as having told reporters.

"The video is part of our effort to make sure that the debate is based on facts and not rumor or otherwise," she added.

Kerry would urge that "passing any new sanctions legislation during the course of the negotiations, in our view, would be unhelpful and could put the success of the outcome at risk," said Psaki.

The White House echoed the message, warning that any "additional sanctions before this diplomatic window could be pursued would undermine our credibility about the goal of these sanctions."

Deputy White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, "We're not sanctioning just for the sake of sanctions and we're not sanctioning the Iranians specifically to punish them.”

He added, "We have these sanctions in place to pressure Iran to consider and pursue a diplomatic option."

The warnings come several days after Iran and the West reached a deal over Iran’s nuclear program, which states that Iran would freeze parts of its nuclear program in exchange for some limited sanctions relief.

On Monday, U.S. treasury officials stated that the deal waged between Western powers and Iran over the weekend will have very little impact on the Iranian economy.

New sanctions would "violate the spirit" of the interim agreement and, Psaki warned Tuesday, could divide the parties to the deal "because other countries would think that the United States is not living up to our end of the bargain in terms of giving the negotiations a chance."

It's not "an all-at-one-time or .. a spigot that's turned all the way on. It would be a slow process that obviously we control, and some of those details are still being worked out," she added.

Soon after the deal was signed, a group of 15 senators declared they would push for more sanctions on Iran.

Over the past few weeks, before the deal with Iran was reached, the Obama administration has been waging a very aggressive campaign to dissuade senators from pursuing new sanctions.

Last week, President Barack Obama told lawmakers 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.