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Kerry to brief US committee on negotiations with Iran

February 3, 2014 at 10:42 am

Aides in the US Senate say that US lawmakers will postpone debating tougher new sanctions on Iran because of its nuclear programme until after a briefing by US Secretary of State John Kerry this week. Kerry is leading the latest efforts by the Obama administration to prevent imposing further sanctions on Iran, despite the growing concern of Congress and pro-Israel groups that the US is providing significant concessions in its negotiations with Tehran.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters that Kerry will brief the US Senate Banking Committee on the outcomes of negotiations for a deal on Iran’s nuclear programme upon his return from a trip that included a stop in Geneva to attend the talks with Iran.

A Banking Committee aide conveyed that Senator Tim Johnson, the Committee’s Chairman, will not decide any further steps until after that meeting.

Meanwhile a number of prominent lawmakers have called for imposing tougher sanctions on Iran following the latest round of negotiations, despite the White House’s insistence that such steps could thwart the ongoing diplomatic efforts. The negotiations are scheduled to resume on 20 November in Geneva.

A source at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the largest pro-Israeli lobby, confirmed that “the Committee supports the Senate’s efforts to impose tougher sanctions on Iran.” The Anti-Defamation League has also urged for additional sanctions against Tehran.

Iran says the aim of its nuclear programme is to generate electricity. But its refusal to halt sensitive activities has led the west to impose tough sanctions against its oil exports and banking sector.

Negotiators from the major world powers will resume talks with Iran after failing to reach a preliminary agreement on an initial proposal to ease international sanctions against Iran in return for placing some restraints on its nuclear programme.

At the same time, the package of tighter sanctions has been making its way through the Congress.

The Republican-led House of Representatives passed a bill to impose tougher sanctions on Iran in July but it was held up in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, after President Barack Obama’s administration asked the Banking Committee to postpone the bill in order to let the diplomatic efforts unfold.