Obama officials were set on Tuesday to step up calls on U.S. lawmakers to refrain from passing new Iran sanctions legislation while diplomats attempt to secure a broader nuclear deal with the Persian Gulf power, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Democratic and Republican backers of a proposal targeting the remainder of Iran's petroleum income hope to insert the language in a defense authorization bill slated for possible consideration this week, before Congress is scheduled to break until January. Iran's top diplomat, though, has warned that any new sanctions would threaten a multilateral agreement reached last month on the nation's disputed nuclear activities.
Secretary of State John Kerry is set to voice opposition to new sanctions in Tuesday hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. On Thursday, the Senate Banking Committee is expected to receive testimony from Wendy Sherman, the undersecretary of State for political affairs, and David Cohen, the Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
The White House has already made clear its opposition to the passage of new Iran sanctions during the interim nuclear agreement's six-month duration. The pact is intended to create room for negotiators to hammer out longer-term restrictions on Iranian activities that Washington and its allies worry is geared toward development of a nuclear-bomb capability.
Speaking to journalists on Monday, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said passing additional Iran penalties "during the course of negotiations would be seriously counterproductive."
Technical aspects of the interim deal were in focus at a two-day meeting launched on Monday by Iranian specialists and international counterparts, Agence France-Presse reported. The gathering in Vienna brought together representatives from the Middle Eastern nation, the International Atomic Energy Agency and six negotiating countries: China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The participants were seeking agreement on when the half-year deal would take effect, as well as verification arrangements and the timing of planned relief from existing economic penalties.