Key U.S. senators may push for new Iran sanctions if nuclear talks with the country drag beyond a July 20 deadline, The Hill reports.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) on Tuesday said he would oppose extending negotiations on Iran's disputed atomic program by half a year "if it's just six months for six months' sake," though he could reconsider if negotiators come "really close to an agreement which is in line with my thought about what an agreement should be."
The senator previously gained significant momentum in pushing for new sanctions legislation targeting Iran, though the effort ultimately stalled. Tehran has suggested such a measure would kill prospects for long-term restrictions on its weapon-usable atomic activities.
Senator Robert Casey (D-Pa.) also voiced doubt that additional time would advance the discussions.
"Even with determined efforts by the [Obama] administration, it doesn't seem like they’re going to get there, and so I’m not sure what an extension would accomplish," he said.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said a "diversity of opinions still exists" following a two-day meeting with senior U.S. diplomats in Geneva this week, Reuters reported.
Araqchi added, though, that "the talks were useful, especially before the next round of talks in Vienna" slated for June 16-20. The upcoming meeting would involve all five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany.
"Before we would ever consider the possibility of extending this interim agreement for another six-month period, certainly we should expect that the Iranians would at least be willing to grant that access" to facilities they previously declared off-limits, Representative Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) said at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.