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World/National News

November 19, 2013

Obama forges ahead toward nuclear agreement with Iran

(Continued)

Some in Congress, however, appeared unconvinced.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who spoke to Obama last week, used a procedural maneuver on Monday to control amendments to a defense bill, including those for Iran sanctions. However, a group of Republican senators introduced an amendment that would keep penalties in place, and toughen them, unless Iran freezes its nuclear program completely.

Led by Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., the senators called Obama’s plan a “well-intentioned but deeply naive diplomatic strategy” that “is doomed to fail.”

“This proposal will give our diplomats the increased leverage they need to get a good deal at the negotiating table — a deal that peacefully brings Iran into full compliance with its international obligations,” Kirk said.

The amendment is not likely to be voted on until after Thanksgiving, which gives the U.S. negotiating team in Geneva some flexibility. But, if adopted, it would complicate negotiations for a final deal with Iran.

Separately, a bipartisan group of six senators — Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Robert Menendez, D-N.J.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Susan Collins, R-Maine — wrote to Kerry warning against an agreement that they believe is flawed.

“We are concerned that the interim agreement would require us to make significant concessions before we see Iran demonstrably commit to moving away from developing a nuclear weapons capability,” the senators wrote. “We feel strongly that any easing of sanctions along the lines that (the negotiators are) reportedly considering should require Iran to roll back its nuclear program more significantly than now envisioned.”

Foreign Minister Zarif’s public dropping of Iran’s insistence that the six world powers acknowledge his nation’s right to enrich uranium opens a way to sidestep that dispute and focus on more practical steps both sides can agree on.

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