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Senators Skeptical of White House Call to Delay New Iran Sanctions
Key U.S. senators are resisting the Obama administration's calls for delaying legislation that would expand economic sanctions against Iran while international talks are under way to diffuse tensions surrounding the Middle Eastern nation's nuclear program, according to Bloomberg.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said he still supports proceeding with an Iran sanctions bill even after meeting on Thursday with Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.
"I'd have to hear something far more substantive from what I heard today to dissuade me" from acting on legislation, Menendez told reporters, according to the wire service.
The Republican-led House of Representatives passed legislation in July that would broaden economic constraints, and the Senate Banking Committee has been expected to present a similar bill that would blacklist Iran's mining and construction sectors. Yet Obama, hopeful that the ongoing diplomatic talks with Iran will prove successful, has dispatched senior officials to Capitol Hill to seek a delay in any move to add sanctions.
Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) on Thursday said he did not expect any positive outcome of talks scheduled for next week in Geneva between Iran and the so-called "P-5+1" -- United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany.
"Sanctions are the only way to prevent a war," Kirk reportedly said.
Other senators, including Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), were more open to holding off on new sanctions.
"I think after 10 years of bitter confrontation, sanctions and all of the inflamed rhetoric, that it makes sense for us to be thoughtful on how and when we respond to the Iranians," Durbin said, according to Agence France-Presse.
Biden on Friday defended the administration's desire for delaying the legislation on Friday.
"No one is suggesting an open-ended delay for new sanctions, and there may come a point where additional sanctions are necessary," the vice president's office said in a statement, according to AFP.
"At the same time, it is important for Congress to reserve its ability to legislate for the moment when it's most effective in order to give the current P5+1 negotiations the best chance to make real progress in achieving our shared goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," Biden's office said.
On Thursday technical experts from Iran and the P-5+1 nations completed two days of talks in advance of the high-profile gathering of senior diplomats from the countries in Geneva on Nov. 7 and 8.
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