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Senators Press Obama to Toughen Stance on Iran

A letter backed by a majority of the U.S. Senate urges President Obama to assume a tougher posture through the next four years in confronting Iran over its disputed nuclear activities, Foreign Policy magazine reported on Tuesday.

The United States has adopted a spate of new financial penalties against Iran in past months while collaborating with China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom to formulate a new compromise proposal aimed at ending Iranian atomic activities with potential nuclear weapons applications. Tehran insists it has no atomic arms ambitions.

"We strongly believe there should be absolutely no diminution of pressure on the Iranians until the totality of their nuclear program has been resolved," says the statement endorsed by 57 senators as of Tuesday.

"The time for limited confidence-building measures is over. Iran must understand that it has a closing window of time in which to show it is serious about wanting to reach a diplomatic solution," Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) wrote in the document.

The statement voices strong doubt over assenting to "any form" of uranium refinement by Tehran under a possible compromise.

Any solution to the standoff should include "at an absolute minimum" the full shutdown of the Qum uranium enrichment facility, complete Iranian transparency in an International Atomic Energy Agency probe into possible arms-related nuclear efforts, and an "extremely intrusive and comprehensive inspection regime" for the nation's atomic activities, the senators wrote.

The Obama administration should pursue additional economic and political punitive measures against Iran and renew the threat of U.S. armed force if the nuclear dispute persists, the lawmakers said.

Western economic penalties can produce no more than a "quick tap on the brakes" in Iran's atomic progress, the Associated Press quoted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying on Tuesday.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry separately said the nation could open its Parchin armed forces facility to scrutiny by the U.N. nuclear watchdog. “If we reach an extensive agreement (with the West) and they recognize our rights, we will take measures to help ease the IAEA’s concerns," spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said on Tuesday. The agency and Iran might in their round of talks in January reach agreement on an investigation plan that would cover Parchin, which is suspected of having housed nuclear weapon-relevant research.

Informed envoys said there could still be roadblocks in reaching a deal on the IAEA probe, Reuters reported. These include the question of whether certain matters would be declared permanently resolved once standing questions are answered; Tehran wants that to be the case, while the U.N. agency prefers the authority to revisit matters in the wake of additional information or other developments.

A separate question, one source said, is whether the agency would provide Iran with sought-after Western spy documenation that have formed the core of suspicions about Tehran's atomic operations.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom is set to undertake its most sizeable transfer of military personnel and equipment to the Persian Gulf since it halted participation in combat intervention in Afghanistan, the London Guardian reported on Tuesday.

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