US senators to Obama: Ease sanctions only if Iran halts uranium enrichment

US senators to Obama: Ease sanctions only if Iran halts uranium enrichment

A day before nuclear talks, 10 lawmakers say they support Geneva negotiations but seek ‘good-faith actions’ from Tehran

US President Barack Obama (photo credit: AP/Charles Dharapak)
US President Barack Obama (photo credit: AP/Charles Dharapak)

WASHINGTON — Leading US senators say Iran must end all uranium enrichment, potentially putting them at odds with the Obama administration ahead of new nuclear talks.

In a letter to President Barack Obama, six Democrats and four Republicans support this week’s negotiations in Geneva. They also seek tougher sanctions on Iran and a convincing threat of US military force.

But the most contentious demand concerns enrichment. The legislators including Sen. Bob Menendez, the Foreign Relations chairman, and Sen. John McCain insist Iran shouldn’t able to continue enriching uranium inside Iran.

“If the Iranian government takes these steps in a verifiable and transparent manner, we are willing to match Iran’s good-faith actions by suspending the implementation of the next round of sanctions currently under consideration by the Congress,” they said in the letter.

The missive came a day before nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers — the US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany — are due to commence in Geneva.

Obama recently recognized Iran’s right to nuclear energy. But he hasn’t said enrichment is acceptable in Iran, as Tehran demands.

Iran has indicated it was willing to compromise on its disputed nuclear program, as biting Western sanctions have taken their toll on its economy.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Iran will suggest a series of proposals aimed at scaling back these sanctions, including limiting its production of enriched uranium and operating centrifuges, opening its nuclear facilities to more thorough international inspections, and closing the enrichment facility near Qom.

On Sunday, the Islamic Republic drew the line at shipping its enriched uranium to another country.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said during a speech Sunday that the window for diplomacy with Iran over its nuclear program is “cracking open,” but that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”

The US and world powers suspect Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says its program is for peaceful energy purposes.

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