U.S. senators restated fears over the strategy for Iran talks, as a congressional sanctions push gradually has lost momentum, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee members on Tuesday said risks would be significant if upcoming multilateral talks do not resolve suspicions that Iran is nurturing a latent nuclear-arms capacity through its ostensibly peaceful atomic-energy activities.
High-level staffers said the Senate's leadership has faced fewer calls in the last several weeks to permit floor consideration of possible new sanctions against Iran. Meanwhile, Tehran is set this month to begin negotiations with the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany on a potential long-term nuclear deal.
In an effort to spur the talks along, the "P-5+1" nations agreed in November to relax certain economic restrictions against the Middle Eastern nation in return for limits on some of its nuclear efforts.
Panel Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), a proponent of additional economic steps, said he is "convinced that we should only relieve pressure on Iran in return for verifiable concessions that will fundamentally dismantle Iran's nuclear program."
The Obama administration's senior Iran negotiator, though, continued to insist that fresh sanctions could derail the negotiations.
"It is crucial we give diplomacy a chance to succeed," Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said.
The senior diplomat added that a possible Russian-Iranian petroleum barter plan does not appear likely to move forward for the time being, Reuters reported. The arrangement might have provided $1.5 billion in new monthly income to Iran.
"We are very crystal clear that anything like such an agreement between Russia and Iran might have potential sanctionable action and would likely create tremendous risk within the P-5+1, which would make coming to a comprehensive agreement all the more difficult if not impossible," Sherman told the committee.
At the same time, Obama officials said they are routinely talking with Turkish counterparts about a separate barter arrangement that has allowed Iran access to as much as $100 billion in petroleum revenues by circumventing economic penalties already in force, the Journal reported.