President Obama would veto a new Iran-sanctions bill that he believes could scuttle nuclear diplomacy with Iran, the White House said on Thursday.
"We certainly don't think it should be enacted," spokesman Jay Carney said of the bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate on Thursday. "The president would veto" the legislation, should it win approval from both chambers of Congress.
A six-month "Joint Plan of Action" negotiated in November calls for the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany to cut back international economic sanctions against Iran if, in exchange, the Persian Gulf power curbs its atomic activities. The interim agreement could take effect as early as Jan. 20, when top European Union diplomats may approve lifting some sanctions at a scheduled gathering.
"If Iran does not comply with its obligations under the Joint Plan of Action, the preliminary agreement, or if Iran fails to reach agreement with the P-5+1 on the more comprehensive agreement over the course of six months, we are very confident that we can work with Congress to very quickly pass new, effective sanctions against Iran," Carney told reporters.
The Nuclear Weapon-Free Iran Act was submitted with backing from 26 sponsors, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).
On Wednesday, though,10 Senate committee leaders voiced strong reservations about immediate action to move any new Iran sanctions bill.
"At this time, as negotiations are ongoing, we believe that new sanctions would play into the hands of those in Iran who are most eager to see the negotiations fail," the Democratic lawmakers wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and the letter's other signers asked to be "consulted" in advance of steps to move any new Iran-sanctions proposal forward.
Meanwhile, Iran on Thursday rejoined talks with the P-5+1 nations -- China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States -- to negotiate details for implementing the interim nuclear accord reached last month, Reuters reported.
Iran insists that its nuclear program is peaceful. Its envoys have warned that any new sanctions would threaten multilateral negotiations that Washington hopes will lead to enduring restrictions on Tehran's atomic activities that could lead to a bomb capacity.