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Obama administration asks Congress to hold off on new Iran sanctions

41_siA top US State Department official urged members of Congress Thursday to hold onto fresh sanctions against Iran until President Barack Obama’s administration can assess the new conciliatory tone from the Iranian government.

“Let me assure you that we will continue to vigorously enforce  the sanctions that are in place as we explore a negotiated  resolution, and will be especially focused on sanctions evasion  and efforts by the Iranians to relieve the pressure,” Wendy  Sherman, undersecretary of state for political affairs, said  during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.
The US, United Nations, and European Union have all joined to  press Iran with punitive sanctions for what they say are measures  to curb Tehran’s nuclear weapons program. Iran counters the  claims, saying that it simply aims to produce and use nuclear  energy. The sanctions in place have devastated the  Iranian economy, cutting oil exports in half while causing  crippling inflation and high unemployment.
Yet new President Hassan Rouhani has recently expressed a desire to reconcile with US  officials, marking the possibility of new relations between the  countries.
Sherman asked lawmakers to at least wait until US and Iranian  officials meet in Geneva in mid-October before moving forward  with more sanctions.
“In terms of legislation that is currently being discussed  here on the Hill, we do believe it would be helpful for you all  to at least allow this meeting to happen on the 15th and 16th of  October before moving forward to consider those new  sanctions,” said Sherman, who is leading the US delegation in  talks with Iran.
The UK, Germany, France, Russia, and China will also participate  in the Geneva talks, although direct Iran-US meetings are  expected be the most important of the negotiations.
The US Senate is weighing a new round of fresh sanctions against  Iran following the passage in July of a House bill that would  seek to further cut Iran’s oil exports by another one million  barrels a day for the next year to almost zero according to  reported estimates. The legislation also vows military force  against Iran should they defy orders not to pursue a nuclear  weapon.
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), who drove the bill in the House,  told the Guardian the legislation is designed to strengthen the  US case during any talks and to “inject into the discussion  the importance of Mr. Obama not making a bad deal – because a bad  deal is worse than no deal at all.”
Franks added that any offerings or promises made by Iranian  officials in the talks would be met with automatic suspicion by  conservative members of the House. The sentiments echo comments  this week by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that overtures from Rouhani come from a “wolf in  sheep’s clothing.”
Sanctions on Iranian oil exports, shipping, and insurance  businesses cost the Islamic Republic billions in revenue each  month. Existing measures already pressure countries including  China, India, and Japan to reduce importing Iranian oil by  threatening to block their banks from the US financial system.
Sherman reiterated to lawmakers that the administration maintains  a strict line with Iran and will only accept “concrete,  substantive actions” by its government.
“I can assure you, if [Iran does] not come on the 15th and  16th with that substantive plan that is real and verifiable, our  Congress will take action, and we will support them to do  so,” she said.
She asked the Senate to allow the administration “the time to  begin these negotiations and see if, in fact, there is anything  real here with my telling of the Iranians quite directly that if  there isn’t, that everyone is ready to act.”
Sherman also warned during the hearing that the current  government shutdown is curtailing the government’s ability to  oversee the existing sanctions.
“Our ability to do that, to enforce sanctions, to stop  sanction evaders, is being hampered significantly by the  shutdown,” she said.

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Source:RT.com

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