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.'
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In a statement lauding the newest measures, Sen. Robert Menendez (D) of New Jersey said the Senate “sent a clear message to Iran as it prepares for the … talks in Baghdad: Provide a real and verifiable plan for the complete dismantling of your nuclear weapons program, or Washington will further tighten the economic noose.”Skip to next paragraph
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Iran insists its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes, such as civilian power generation and medical research.
The White House so far shows no signs of heeding advice like Lavrov’s and breaking with Congress on Iran. In comments to reporters Tuesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said pressure on Iran would grow until it has gone beyond “promises” to “actions and fulfillment of obligations.”
“We are very clear-eyed about Iranian behavior, and what has taken [place] to get us to this point,” he added, “so we will continue to pressure Tehran, continue to move forward with the sanctions that will be coming online as the year progresses, and we expect those to have the kind of effect on Iran … of making it clear to the regime what the price of a continued failure to meet its obligations will mean for that country and for its economy.”
But such sentiments aside, there are suggestions that the White House and Congress may have differing approaches to the idea of compromise with Iran. One emerging difference is over what, if any, level of uranium enrichment Iran should be allowed to maintain.
Administration officials have suggested that, while Iran’s enrichment to 20 percent purity – a level that technically is not far from the 90-percent enrichment required to create fuel for a nuclear weapon – must stop under any circumstances, the US might accept Iran pursuing the less-threatening 3.5-to-5 percent required for civilian nuclear purposes.
But Congress is by and large taking a “no enrichment, period” stance towards Iran – mirroring the position of the Israeli government.
In their statement Tuesday of the “principles” they said should guide the Baghdad talks, the senators underscored their insistence on no enrichment.
“Given the Iranian regime’s pattern of deceptive and illicit conduct,” they said, “it cannot be trusted to maintain any enrichment or reprocessing activities on its territory for the foreseeable future – at least until the international community has been fully convinced that Iran has genuinely decided to abandon any nuclear weapons ambitions.”
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