White House: Further Sanctions Counterproductive

White House: Further Sanctions CounterproductiveWhite House: Further Sanctions Counterproductive

The White House said on Monday Iran should be given more time to address concerns about its nuclear program and that imposing fresh sanctions on the Iranians could be counterproductive, Reuters reported.

Iran denies the allegation that it may have been seeking to develop the capability to build nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian program, saying its nuclear work is meant only for peaceful purposes, such as electricity generation. However, Tehran has increased its cooperation with the UN nuclear agency and engaged in serious talks with the major powers to ease concerns about its nuclear activities since President Hassan Rouhani took office last year.    

White House spokesman Josh Earnest made the comments after Iran and the six powers including the United States gave themselves seven more months to work out a long-term settlement to the 12-year dispute over Tehran's nuclear program.  

"The president (Barack Obama) has also been clear that no deal is better than a bad deal. But we do believe that enough progress has been made to warrant giving the Iranian (government)  more time to answer the international community's concerns about their nuclear program and to put in place a protocol for continuing to assure the international community about their compliance with these agreements," Earnest told a briefing.

  Call for More Sanctions

Reuters also reported that several US Republican lawmakers insisted on Monday that the extension of nuclear talks with Iran be accompanied by increased sanctions. Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte, three of the party's leading foreign policy voices, said they view Iran's insistence on having any enrichment capability at all as problematic.

"We believe this latest extension of talks should be coupled with increased sanctions and a requirement that any final deal between Iran and the United States be sent to Congress for approval," they said in a statement. Iran and the six powers (the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany) failed on Monday for a second time this year to meet a target date to strike a final deal.

John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, said an extension only allows the administration to make more concessions to Iran. Some Republicans held off calling for immediate new sanctions, but insisted Congress must be allowed to weigh in on any final nuclear agreement with Iran.

Senator Bob Corker, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Congress must be given say on a deal and should begin preparing alternatives, including tougher sanctions, in case negotiations fail. "I would rather the administration continue to negotiate than agree to a bad deal that would only create more instability in the region and around the world," Corker said in a statement.

  Backing for Extension

President Barack Obama's fellow Democrats, who blocked a largely Republican attempt to tighten sanctions a year ago, backed the extension, saying Congress should not do anything that might imperil the talks.

"A collapse of the talks is counter to US interests and would further destabilize an already volatile region," said Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee. Obama has insisted that more sanctions imposed by Washington would antagonize Iran, anger other countries now supporting sanctions and collapse the negotiations.