WASHINGTON (AP) — A leading Republican critic of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy is pushing for new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme, unswayed by a White House veto threat and lobbying by Britain’s leader.
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina did say Sunday that he would be willing to set aside his efforts if Obama would submit any agreement with Tehran to Congress for lawmakers to approve or reject. An Obama adviser scoffed at the idea as an infringement on presidential authority.
The new Republican-led Congress has picked an early foreign policy fight with the president, with the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee holding a hearing Tuesday on possible new penalties against Tehran.
The US and its partners in the negotiations are trying to reach a framework agreement with Iran by March and hoping to complete a longer-term deal by July that would limit Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon.
Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.
Secretary of State John Kerry has stepped up talks with Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, and they may hold further discussions this week when both are expected to attend the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.
The proposed sanctions, which have bipartisan support, would go into effect only if the negotiations fail and the June 30 deadline is not met, according to a congressional aide who spoke on background because the bill has not been finalised.
Graham described congressional efforts as signaling to the Iranians that “we would like a political negotiation, a diplomatic solution. But please understand in Iran that the Congress is intent on reapplying sanctions if you walk away from the negotiating table and if you cheat,” Graham said. “I don’t think that’s a disruptive message.”