MPs Mulling Response to Possible New Sanctions

MPs Mulling Response to Possible New Sanctions
MPs Mulling Response to Possible New Sanctions

Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani said the lawmakers are preparing a bill in response to possible new western sanctions over Tehran's nuclear program.   

"Some parliamentarians are working on a bill that would allow uranium enrichment to any (purity) level if the West imposes new sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran," IRNA quoted Larijani as saying in an address to a gathering of seminary teachers in Qom on Thursday.

He also said, "The western countries should be aware that they should use the current opportunity and that they certainly are not able to pursue political deception in the nuclear negotiations (between Iran and the major powers) through bargaining," adding that it is clear that Iran is ready to show due flexibility, but it will never give up its "peaceful nuclear know-how."

  Pushing Ahead With Legislation   

The chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee said on Wednesday Republican and Democratic US lawmakers will press ahead with a plan for more sanctions on Iran, despite White House warnings that they risked derailing nuclear talks.  

Lawmakers, who say they fear Obama administration negotiators may not take a hard line with Tehran, are also at work on a separate bill to have Congress approve any final agreement on Iran's nuclear program, Senator Bob Corker told Reuters in an interview.

"There are continual efforts to try to figure out a way for Congress to play a role to strengthen whatever final deal may occur," the Tennessee Republican senator said. Republican Senator Mark Kirk and Democratic Senator Robert Menendez are finalizing a bill for tougher sanctions on Iran if there is no final nuclear deal by the June 30 deadline for the talks on a long-term settlement to the 12-year dispute over Tehran's nuclear work. The Senate Banking Committee is due to hold a hearing on Iran sanctions on Tuesday, said Corker, a member also of that panel.

Kirk and Menendez introduced a sanctions bill in December 2013, but it did not come up for a vote in the Senate, then controlled by President Barack Obama's fellow Democrats, who lost control of the chamber because of big losses in November elections.

The White House has insisted passage of a sanctions bill now - even one that would impose new restrictions only if there is no deal by the deadline - could prompt Iran to back out of the nuclear talks with the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany).

Although Republicans now hold a 54-46 seat majority in the Senate, Corker said he did not know if there would be enough votes - 67 - needed in the Senate to override an Obama veto of any Iran legislation.

  Obama Spars With Senator

The New York Times also reported that President Obama and Senator Robert Menendez traded sharp words on Thursday over whether Congress should impose new sanctions on Iran while the administration is negotiating with Tehran about its nuclear program, according to two people who witnessed the exchange.

In the course of the argument, which was described as tense but generally respectful, Mr. Obama vowed to veto legislation being drafted by Mr. Menendez and Senator Mark Kirk that would impose the sanctions before the multiparty talks are set to end this summer. Their face-off occurred behind closed doors at the Hilton in Baltimore, where the two-day Senate Democratic Issues Conference was taking place.

His exchange with Mr. Menendez occurred near the end of a question-and-answer session after Senator Angus King of Maine asked for an update to the nuclear talks. According to one of the senators and another person who was present, the president urged lawmakers to stop pursuing sanctions, saying such a move would undermine his authority and could derail the talks. Mr. Obama also said that such a provocative action could lead international observers to blame the Americans, rather than the Iranians, if the talks collapsed before the June 30 deadline.

The president said he understood the pressures that senators face from donors and others, but he urged the lawmakers to take the long view rather than make a move for short-term political gain, according to the senator. Mr. Menendez, who was seated at a table in front of the podium, stood up and said he took "personal offense."

Mr. Menendez told the president that he had worked for more than 20 years to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions and had always been focused on the long-term implications. Mr. Menendez also warned the president that sanctions could not be imposed quickly if Congress waited to act and the talks failed, according to two people who were present.