The U.S. Senate will not advance legislation expanding sanctions against Iran before Secretary of State John Kerry briefs them in private on Wednesday about sputtering negotiations with the Middle Eastern nation about its disputed nuclear program, Reuters reported.
Kerry will visit Capitol Hill days after attending talks in Geneva between Iran and the "P-5+1" -- the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany -- that did not yield a long-sought deal to curb Iranian atomic activities. Tehran, though, on Monday did reach a separate pact with the International Atomic Energy Agency allowing the watchdog organization to conduct limited inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities.
Still, a number of U.S. lawmakers support increasing punitive economic measures against Iran to compel it to agree to a more-comprehensive deal with the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany.
Kerry on Wednesday plans to ask the Democratic-led Senate Banking panel to continue delaying a bill-writing session for a measure that reportedly would blacklist Iran's mining and construction sectors, as talks with Iran will resume on Nov. 20.
Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) "will not make a decision on additional sanctions until he has had a chance to consult with his colleagues following the briefing," a committee staffer told Reuters.
Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), a Banking Committee member who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Sunday advocated legislation that would increase Iranian sanctions if an acceptable deal is not reached with the P-5+1 nations.
"It's an insurance for the United States to make sure that Iran actually complies with an agreement, that we would want to see, which is, of course, desirable," Menendez said on ABC's "This Week." He expressed similar sentiments in a USA Today opinion piece.
U.S. and Iranian officials, meanwhile, are disputing why the Geneva talks that ended Nov. 10 failed to yield an agreement.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Monday dismissed Kerry's assertion that Iran was not willing to accept a deal that the six other countries all supported. Zarif appeared to blame France for altering the P-5+1 agreement, according to the BBC.
Meanwhile, Zarif on Tuesday criticized the U.N. Security Council's role in his country's nuclear program, saying that the matter should be addressed only by the International Atomic Energy Agency, according to the Iranian Mehr News Agency.