US President Barack Obama warned Congress on Tuesday that any move to impose new sanctions on Iran could scupper delicate negotiations aimed at reaching a comprehensive nuclear agreement.
“New sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails,” Obama said in his State of the Union address to the Republican-controlled Congress.
As some lawmakers maneuver to try to draft a bill slapping new sanctions on Iran, Obama renewed his vow to veto any such legislation.
Talks between global powers and Iran to rein in its disputed nuclear program resumed last weekend in Geneva, with a new deadline looming at the end of June.
Negotiators, however, have said they would like to see a framework deal in place sometime in March, after two previous deadlines for a historic accord were missed.
“Between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran,” Obama told US lawmakers.
Such a deal would also secure “America and our allies, including Israel, while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict.”
The US president warned “there are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed,” and vowed to “keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran.”
But he warned new sanctions would “alienate” the United States from its allies and ensure that “Iran starts up its nuclear program again.”
“It doesn’t make sense. That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress,” Obama said, referring to an interim accord under which Tehran has frozen its uranium enrichment in return for limited sanctions relief.
Earlier in January, the US ambassador to the United Nations also stressed beefing up sanctions would isolate the United States in its strategy to address Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and weaken joint international pressure.
British Prime Minister David Cameron is another politician who has called on US senators to avoid introducing any new sanctions, saying that existing sanctions have led to the ongoing talks with Iran over its nuclear program, “and those talks at least have a prospect of success.”
Meanwhile, some Iranian lawmakers are considering a push toward resuming unlimited uranium enrichment if the United States imposes new sanctions on Tehran.
On January 15, in a speech in the Iranian religious city of Qom, Parliament speaker Ali Larijani warned the world powers they “cannot haggle with us,” saying they must “make correct use of the opportunities offered to them.”
“Recently some deputies have been considering a bill stipulating that Iran will pursue its activities at whatever level of enrichment… if the West decides to impose new sanctions,” he warned.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Jawad Zarif held intensive talks on January 14 and they discussed the main issues of the previous round of negotiations between Iran and world powers.
A new round of talks on Iran’s nuclear program has started on January 18 in Geneva. The talks is at the deputy foreign ministerial level and aimed at finding a deal on the number and type of uranium-enriching centrifuges of Iran and the process for relieving sanctions against the country.
The West suspects Tehran may be trying to develop a nuclear weapon capability.
Iran denies it is seeking a bomb and says its nuclear program is solely aimed at producing atomic energy to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels, requiring a massive increase in its ability to enrich uranium.
(AFP, Anadolu, Al-Akhbar)