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Top U.S. Diplomat Spars Over Iran's Financial Gains From Pact

An engineer stands in an Iranian gas field in 2005. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday countered Senate suggestions that Iran has reaped notable financial gains under a short-term nuclear deal reached last year. An engineer stands in an Iranian gas field in 2005. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday countered Senate suggestions that Iran has reaped notable financial gains under a short-term nuclear deal reached last year. (Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry dismissed Senate suggestions that Iran's finances are benefiting notably from nuclear talks, Agence France-Presse reports.

The United States and five other countries granted limited sanctions relief to Iran under a six-month accord intended as a first step to address a global dispute over the Persian Gulf nation's nuclear program. Some lawmakers have aired concerns that the November deal could reduce Tehran's incentive to eliminate fears that it is pursuing a nuclear-bomb capacity.

Speaking at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Thursday, Kerry said "nothing in the architecture of the sanctions regime has been changed whatsoever. "

"Iran's economy contracted by 6 percent last year. It is expected to contract again this year. Inflation remains at almost 40 percent," he said.

Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), though, asserted that the atomic deal has given Tehran access to $25 billion that the government might partly be funneling to Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based militant organization.

"I would expect that we would see even more terrorism with this additional money available to the Islamic Republic of Iran," said Kirk, who helped draft legislation that would threaten further sanctions against the Middle Eastern nation.

Kerry argued that Iran still faces "huge economic problems," and said roughly $15 billion to $30 billion of the nation's petroleum revenue was still being seized and held in other countries.

"So they're losing," Kerry said of the Iranians. "They're losing enormous sums of money and more than $100 billion that is now frozen."

Still, Iran's petroleum sales have surged since January to reach their highest point in 12 months, the Paris-based International Energy Agency said in a Friday analysis.

Further increases could place Tehran in breach of limits established under its interim atomic arrangement with the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

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