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Senators Introduce Bipartisan Iran-Sanctions Bill

By Diane Barnes

Global Security Newswire

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), shown in September, on Thursday joined 23 other senators in introducing legislation that would threaten new sanctions against Iran (Mark Wilson/Getty Images). Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), shown in September, on Thursday joined 23 other senators in introducing legislation that would threaten new sanctions against Iran (Mark Wilson/Getty Images).

U.S. senators on Thursday introduced a bill threatening new sanctions on Iran, despite White House warnings that the legislation could disrupt nuclear talks.

The measure allows for a 180-day suspension of sanctions to facilitate diplomacy, plus additional time if the White House judges a final deal to be imminent. The legislation also includes a "sense of Congress" that the "government of Iran does not have an absolute or inherent right to enrichment and reprocessing capabilities and technologies," despite Tehran's past statements that it does maintain such a right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who sponsored the Nuclear Weapon-Free Iran Act with 23 of his colleagues, argued that the measure would raise pressure on Iran to fully relinquish atomic activities that could support a future capacity to produce nuclear weapons.

Iran insists that its nuclear program is peaceful, and has warned that any new sanctions would threaten an initial multilateral agreement reached last month on the nation's atomic efforts. The Obama administration hopes the November deal will help negotiators hammer out longer-term restrictions on the disputed Iranian nuclear activities.

"Current sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table and a credible threat of future sanctions will require Iran to cooperate and act in good faith at the negotiating table," Menendez said in released remarks. "[Additional] sanctions will influence Iran’s calculus and accelerate that process toward achieving a meaningful diplomatic resolution."

White House spokesman Jay Carney on Tuesday cautioned lawmakers against taking any immediate action to pass new sanctions legislation.

"If they were to impose or pass new sanctions now," the move could "potentially scuttle the initial preliminary agreement," Carney said.

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