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State Department: New Iran Sanctions Could Hurt Nuclear Talks

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman pictured during a Sept. 5 visit to Capitol Hill. On Thursday she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Congress should not approve new sanctions against Iran before upcoming six-nation talks with the Middle Eastern nation about its nuclear program (Alex Wong/Getty Images). Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman pictured during a Sept. 5 visit to Capitol Hill. On Thursday she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Congress should not approve new sanctions against Iran before upcoming six-nation talks with the Middle Eastern nation about its nuclear program (Alex Wong/Getty Images).

A senior Obama administration diplomat on Thursday pressed U.S. senators not to legislate new economic sanctions against Iran until after a multilateral meeting slated for later this month on the country's nuclear program, The Hill newspaper reported.

"I would hope that you will allow us the time to begin these negotiations [with Iran] and see if, in fact, there is anything real here," U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Iran would hear "quite directly that if there isn't ... everyone is ready to act,” added Sherman, Washington's top envoy to talks between Iran and six negotiating powers.

The House of Representatives passed legislation in July that would expand economic constraints on non-U.S. companies doing business with Iran, and the Senate Banking Committee is preparing a similar Iran sanctions bill.

Sherman is concerned about the timing of Congress' deliberations on such legislation because of a planned Oct. 15-16 meeting in Geneva over suspicions that Tehran's atomic efforts are geared toward development of a nuclear-arms capability. Iran's recently installed president has pledged to seek quick progress in the talks, which have dragged out for years in an on-and-off fashion.

Still, the House bill's sponsor said the Senate should "pass sanctions legislation now."

Doing so would "increase our negotiating leverage and deny Tehran the resources to continue its nuclear program," House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said on Thursday in released comments.

Separately, Sherman said Washington's implementation of existing Iran penalties has been "hampered significantly" since many government offices closed their doors on Tuesday, The Hill reported separately.

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