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Senators Cross Aisle To Call For New Sanctions On Iran

A bipartisan measure defying President Obama would impose new sanctions on Iran if it breaks an interim deal to curb its nuclear program.

The "Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act" would also compel the United States to back any Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.

Reuters says:

"Democrats Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Charles Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, and Republican Senator Mark Kirk, along with 23 others, introduced the bill intended to choke off funding to Iran's nuclear program by cutting off its oil sales.

"Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also has said a new sanctions law would kill the interim agreement reached in Geneva on Nov. 24 between Iran and the 'P5+1' powers. In that agreement, Tehran agreed to limit uranium enrichment in return for an easing of international sanctions."

"[We've] been in regular, very direct conversations with members of Congress on this subject, and have made very clear to them that we do not believe now is the time to pass any additional new sanctions through Congress," White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday.

"With regards to this particular measure, we don't think it will be enacted," he said. "[If] Iran does not comply with its obligations under the Joint Plan of Action, the preliminary agreement, or if Iran fails to reach agreement with the P5+1 on the more comprehensive agreement over the course of six months, we are very confident that we can work with Congress to very quickly pass new, effective sanctions against Iran."

The Associated Press reports:

"The goal, according to supporters, is to strengthen the negotiating leverage of the Obama administration as it seeks to pressure Iran into a comprehensive agreement next year that would eliminate the risk of the Islamic republic developing nuclear weapons. But it could also create added complications for U.S. negotiators, who promised Iran no new economic sanctions for the duration of the six-month interim pact that was finalized on Nov. 24 in Geneva.

" '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 at the negotiating table,' said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who spearheaded the effort with Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill.

"Kirk called the draft law 'an insurance policy to defend against Iranian deception.' "

Meanwhile, 10 Senate Democrats who head key committees sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid opposing the measure.

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