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      Two Senators Preparing New Iran Sanctions

      Democratic Senator Robert Menendez and Republican Senator Mark Kirk close to agreeing on new Iran sanctions, say aides.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 12/10/2013, 6:13 AM

      Bushehr nuclear reactor
      Bushehr nuclear reactor
      Reuters

      Lawmakers in the United States continue to show determination in passing new sanctions on Iran, despite the nuclear deal that was reached with it several weeks ago.

      Reuters reported on Monday that two senators are preparing legislation to impose new sanctions on the Islamic Republic in six months if the interim deal on its nuclear program goes nowhere.

      The Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez, and Republican Senator Mark Kirk are close to agreeing on legislation that would target Iran's remaining oil exports, foreign exchange reserves and strategic industries, their aides said on Monday, according to Reuters.

      The legislation, which faces an uphill battle amid opposition from the White House, would seek to limit the ability of President Barack Obama's administration to waive sanctions on Iran. It would also re-impose sanctions if Tehran reneges on an interim deal struck last month.

      A senior Republican Senate aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, called the legislation "an insurance policy to protect against Iranian deception."

      The Obama administration has been pushing the senators to hold off on passing any new sanctions, sending  top officials such as Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry to convince them not to follow through with the legislation.

      Obama recently 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.

      On Monday, Ben Rhodes, a White House deputy national security adviser, said, according to Reuters, that "sanctions during the course of negotiations would be seriously counterproductive," and could unravel the unity of the global powers that crafted the interim deal with Iran.

      Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has told TIME magazine that new sanctions - even if delayed - would kill the agreement reached in Geneva.

      The senators may try to add the legislation to a must-pass bill such as the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual defense spending bill due to be debated in the Senate this week.

      It was not clear yet which path they would take, but a deal could come as early as Monday night, the Republican aide told Reuters.