|Obama urges Congress to give Iran diplomacy a chance||
TEHRAN – President Barack Obama on Monday urged the U.S. Congress to give peace with Iran a chance, as lawmakers lined up behind new sanctions despite warnings they could doom an interim nuclear deal, AFP reported.
Obama said that the Geneva nuclear deal due to go into force on January 20 offered a “door of opportunity” for Iran to have better relations with other countries.
Iran and the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) clinched an interim deal in Geneva on November 24, 2013 according to which Iran agreed not to expand its nuclear program for six months in exchange for limited sanctions relief.
The Geneva agreement is designed to provide time to negotiate a comprehensive nuclear deal.
Obama also said that if Iran fails to live up to the terms of the deal, he would support the imposition of new sanctions on Iran.
“My preference is for peace and diplomacy,” Obama told reporters.
“This is one of the reasons why I’ve sent a message to Congress that now is not the time for us to impose new sanctions. What we want to do is give diplomacy a chance and give peace a chance.”
The White House has previously warned that Obama will veto any bill enacted by Congress to impose new sanctions on Iran, fearing it could prompt Tehran to walk away from the negotiating table.
But there are increasing signs that bipartisan support for the bill on Capitol Hill may be nearing the two-thirds majority required to override such a veto.
It is currently unclear if and when the bill will be brought up for a vote in Congress. The president will have a chance to press home his case for a delay in new sanctions when he makes his annual State of the Union address on January 28.
Lawmakers who support the bill say stiffer measures would increase Obama’s leverage in talks between Iran and major powers.
Obama has insisted that Washington must test Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s willingness to honor a pledge to seek a peaceful nuclear deal, despite opposition from many hawks on Capitol Hill.
His aides say that if new sanctions force the nuclear talks to collapse, Washington could be forced into another war in the Middle East.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said new sanctions would have the opposite effect to the one intended by key sponsors, Democratic Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez and Republican Senator Mark Kirk.
“It could, if they were to do it, actually weaken the sanctions structure that’s in place by undermining faith among our international partners and providing Iran the opportunity to say that we have been negotiating in bad faith,” Carney said last week.
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