|White House presses Senate to delay new Iran sanctions||
TEHRAN – The White House hosted a meeting of aides to Senate committee leaders on Thursday seeking to persuade lawmakers to hold off on a package of new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, a senior Senate aide said, Reuters reported on Thursday.
The White House will press for another delay on a sanctions bill that had been expected to come to a vote in the Senate Banking Committee last month but was held back after appeals from President Barack Obama’s administration to let negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program get under way.
The aide said Republicans would resist further delay, but that the decision was in the hands of Democratic Senator Tim Johnson, the committee’s chairman, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, also a Democrat.
A Johnson spokesman confirmed that a meeting on Iran took place at the White House but gave no further details. A Reid spokesman was not immediately available to comment.
Iran and the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) held nuclear talks in Geneva on October 15 and 16.
The United States, Israel, and a few of their European allies accuse Iran of pursuing military objectives in its nuclear energy program.
However, the International Atomic Energy Agency has conducted numerous inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities and found no evidence showing that Iran’s civilian nuclear program has been diverted to nuclear weapons production.
U.S. senators have begun debating behind closed doors a new sanctions bill that could seek further cuts in Iran’s oil exports and limit the ability of the administration to issue waivers to the sanctions.
The White House confirmed there was a meeting with Senate aides on Thursday, but a spokeswoman would not comment on whether the administration would push for further delay in the sanctions.
“Congress has been an important partner in our efforts thus far. We will continue our close consultation, as we have in the past, so that any congressional action is aligned with our negotiating strategy as we move forward,” said Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council.
“Today’s meeting is part of these ongoing consultations, following on the recent P5+1 talks with Iran,” she said.
Wendy Sherman, the under secretary of State for political affairs who participated in this month’s talks in Geneva, discussed Iran with members of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee in a classified briefing at the Capitol on Wednesday.
The committee’s top Democrat, Representative Eliot Engel, attended the meeting at the Capitol but declined comment on the classified nature of the talks. A spokesman said he supports efforts to engage with Iran.
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