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Senate May Boost Iran Sanctions Despite Kerry Plea

Secretary of State John Kerry, right, accompanied by Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), on Wednesday arrives at the Capitol to brief senators on negotiations with Iran about its nuclear program. Key lawmakers said they may still favor heightened sanctions (Win McNamee/Getty Images). Secretary of State John Kerry, right, accompanied by Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), on Wednesday arrives at the Capitol to brief senators on negotiations with Iran about its nuclear program. Key lawmakers said they may still favor heightened sanctions (Win McNamee/Getty Images).

Obama administration officials may not have convinced senators on Wednesday to delay the implementation of new sanctions against Iran while multinational negotiations continue with the Persian Gulf country about its nuclear program, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and other State Department leaders warned senators on Wednesday that passing legislation further penalizing Iran could spur it to stop ongoing negotiations with "P-5+1" nations -- the five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany. Administration officials planned to brief additional senators and House leaders on Thursday.

"We are negotiating and the risk is that if Congress were to unilaterally move to raise sanctions, it could break faith with those negotiations and actually stop them and break them apart," Kerry told reporters before a closed briefing with the Senate Banking Committee. The Democratic-led panel has crafted a bill expanding Iran sanctions in line with legislation passed by the Republican-controlled House.

Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) was still weighing the sanctions expansion on Wednesday, aides told the Los Angeles Times. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also said he was undecided, while Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) told the Associated Press he favored holding off on new sanctions while talks with Iran evolve.

Key Senate Republicans who favor increased sanctions, though, said they were not swayed by Kerry, Foreign Policy reported.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Kerry made "solely an emotional appeal" and he was surprised that the classified briefing had "such a lack of specificity."

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) insisted lawmakers increase sanctions by amending the defense authorization bill that the Senate may debate next week, according to the Wall Street Journal.

"The administration is not going to act in the best way to prevent a nuclear war in the Middle East," Kirk said.

Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), a Banking Committee member who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has advocated legislation that would increase sanctions against Tehran if an acceptable deal is not reached with the P-5+1 nations.

Meanwhile, the State Department on Wednesday rejected Israel's assessment that the nations negotiating with Iran are considering easing up to 40 percent of sanctions against it. Spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said that assertion is "inaccurate, exaggerated and not based in reality."

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