Congress to hold off on Iran sanctions for now

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 11, 2013 at 4:50 pm •  Published: December 11, 2013
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Possible House action this week against Iran could fall short of new penalties that might derail a short-term nuclear agreement and Senate steps seem further off, legislatives aides said Wednesday, as the Obama administration appealed for patience.

In the House, the aides said Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., could introduce a nonbinding resolution as early as Thursday spelling out suggested terms for any final deal. The goal would be a vote before the House leaves on recess Friday.

Senate aides reported that Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was talking about possible votes in January. His intent, they said, was to ensure the issue does not interfere with passage of a defense bill before senators break next week for Christmas.

As a result, Congress is not expected to approve new sanctions until January at the earliest, giving President Barack Obama at least a few more weeks before his diplomatic effort could face added complications.

The aides spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to publicly discuss the legislative maneuvering.

The U.S. and other world powers reached an agreement with Iran last month that provides Iran with $7 billion in relief from U.S. economic penalties in exchange for a series of nuclear concessions.

The administration also committed to no new nuclear-related penalties for six months, a promise that upset members of both parties in Congress.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew met with much of the Senate in private Wednesday in a renewed effort to hold on any legislation that might scuttle the nuclear deal.

Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday that even if lawmakers suspended fresh penalties on condition that Iran didn't violate its commitments, those sanctions would be a sign of bad faith to America's negotiating partners and could provide Tehran with an excuse to walk away from negotiations.

Obama and Kerry say a final deal next year is uncertain, but stress that diplomacy is far preferable to any military solution.

Iran insists its nuclear program is solely designed for peaceful energy generation and medical research purposes. The U.S. and several other countries long have viewed the program as a covert attempt by Iran to develop nuclear weapons capability.

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