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Iran nuclear talks Day 1: Russian calls Congress an obstacle to a deal

On the first day of renewed talks on Iran's nuclear program, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said sanctions should be eased, terming Congress's firm stance toward Iran 'excessive.'

By Staff writer / May 23, 2012

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (c.) attends a meeting of President Vladimir Putin with the new cabinet in the Kremlin in Moscow, on May 21.

Alexei Druzhinin/Government Press Service/RIA-Novosti/AP

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Washington

The view is not a new one: that resistance in the US Congress to any kind of compromise with Iran would be the highest hurdle President Obama faced in negotiating a deal with Iran on its nuclear program.

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But that perspective burst out onto the international diplomatic stage Wednesday as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov chose the delicate moment of renewed talks between Iran and world powers to publicly advise President Obama to resist congressional pressures in order to make a diplomatic solution on Iran’s nuclear program possible.

“I hope this excessive stance by the US lawmakers will ultimately meet a responsible attitude by the US administration and the US president,” Mr. Lavrov said at a Moscow press conference.

Referring to new unilateral sanctions the US Senate approved this week, Lavrov said, “As Iran takes a step toward the global community, the world community should take steps for weaker sanctions against Iran.”

China also said this week that now, during crucial talks, is no time to be adding to the sanctions on Iran.

Talks between Iran and world powers got under way Wednesday in Baghdad, where early signs emerged that Western objections to quickly easing economic sanctions on Iran under any circumstances were dampening prospects for a breakthrough.

The focus on sanctions pits those – like Lavrov – who say any demands Tehran agrees to should be matched by reciprocal steps from the international community, against those – including much of Congress – who say the only reason Iran has come to the table is to find a way to wiggle out from under stifling sanctions.

A bipartisan group of US senators expressed that latter view in a statement on the eve of the Baghdad talks Tuesday, in which they said “the Iranian regime has come to the negotiating table only because of increasingly crippling pressure from sanctions. Therefore any hope for real diplomatic progress depends upon a continuing and expanding campaign of economic pressure on the Iranian regime.”

The statement, signed by 12 senators, was issued a day after the Senate, unanimously, passed a bill that would impose a new round of sanctions. The actions include a tightening of already approved measures against Iran’s central bank and new sanctions on joint ventures in the energy sector.

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