WASHINGTON: The White House warned on Thursday that President Barack Obama would veto a bill threatening new sanctions on Iran, because it could sink a final deal to stop Tehran getting a nuclear bomb.
The legislation, backed by both Democratic and Republican senators, would impose new sanctions on Tehran if it violated a six-month interim nuclear agreement reached last month or if no final deal is reached.
The White House appears alarmed that the move could undermine the Iranian negotiating team or offer the Islamic republic an excuse to walk away from the negotiations.
“This action is unnecessary,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
“We don’t think it will be enacted. If it were enacted, the president would veto it.
“It is very important to refrain from taking an action that would potentially disrupt the opportunity here for a diplomatic resolution of this challenge.”
Twenty-six US senators introduced new Iran sanctions legislation earlier Thursday, despite an intense White House lobbying campaign, which has included the president himself and warnings that the alternative to diplomacy is a new war in the Middle East.
The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act was introduced by Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez, fellow Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer and Republican Senator Mark Kirk.
“Current sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table and a credible threat of future sanctions will require Iran to cooperate and act in good faith,” said Menendez in a statement introducing the legislation.
It was not immediately clear if or when the bill could see a vote. Action this year is highly unlikely, with the Senate set to recess this week until early 2014.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has indicated he is opposed to bringing such a bill to the floor in January, saying he agreed with the Obama administration’s call to give the delicate negotiations a chance to work.
Should the landmark interim deal collapse, the proposed sanctions would require Iran to reduce its oil production and would apply new penalties to the Islamic republic’s engineering, mining and construction industries.
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