State Dept. to Congress: Delay sanctions on Iran
The administration of US President Barack Obama has asked lawmakers to delay a new round of sanctions against Iran as a political stalemate in Congress has led to a federal government shutdown in the US.
On Thursday, Wendy Sherman, the US State Department’s third-ranking official, told senators to delay new anti-Iran sanctions legislation until after upcoming talks over Iran’s nuclear energy program later this month.
“We do believe it would be helpful for you to at least allow this meeting to happen on the 15th and 16th of October before moving forward to consider these new sanctions,” Sherman, the undersecretary of State for political affairs, told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.
Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - plus Germany are to hold talks in Geneva on October 15-16 over Iran’s nuclear energy program.
The parties also met at the UN headquarters in New York last week. After the UN meeting, US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, held a bilateral discussion of more than 20 minutes.
Later, in an interview with CBS broadcast on Sunday, Kerry said “It’s possible to have a deal” with Iran over its nuclear energy program soon, adding Washington could begin lifting sanctions against Tehran within months.
Moreover, Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had a landmark 15-minute phone conversation on Sep. 27 that became the first direct communication between the presidents of the two countries since Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979. During the call, the two presidents stressed Tehran and Washington’s political will to swiftly resolve the nuclear dispute.
Nevertheless, Sherman has said the Obama administration would not necessarily object to new sanctions and would be willing to work with Congress after the Geneva meeting.
In July, US lawmakers in the House of Representatives passed a bill seeking to cut Iran’s oil exports by one million barrels a day for the next year. The House bill also includes threats of military force against Iran.
Meanwhile, Obama repeated his threats of military action against Iran after a meeting with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Monday and claimed that Iran is calling for diplomatic negotiations over its nuclear program because of the illegal sanctions Washington has imposed on Iran.
Iranian Foreign Minister criticized Obama for his remarks, saying Obama is being “disrespectful of a nation.”
Zarif also warned Obama that his “flip-flop and contradictory” stances will destroy mutual confidence and urged him to show consistency in dealing with Iran to promote trust.
The US, Israel and some of their allies claim that Iran is pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program, with the US and the European Union using the unfounded allegation as a pretext to impose illegal sanctions on Iran.
Tehran strongly rejects the allegation, maintaining that as a committed signatory to the NPT and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.