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Kerry Argues Against New Sanctions On Iran

Washington — Secretary of State John F. Kerry implored Congress on Thursday not to impose tough new sanctions on Iran, warning that such a move could disrupt diplomacy over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program at a delicate moment.

Appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry said that because Iran is two months away from an election, new U.S. economic penalties could become an inflamed political issue and reduce the chances of a deal to curb the nuclear program.

Kerry’s comments exposed again the tension between Congress’ desire to hit Iran with ever-tougher sanctions and the Obama administration’s concern that penalties could undermine diplomacy and strain the international coalition seeking to curb the nuclear program. The House is weighing a bill that aims to further reduce Iranian oil sales and cut non-oil trade. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., is sponsoring a sanctions measure, and other senators are discussing additional legislation, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said.

With the Iranian nuclear program advancing and diplomatic efforts seemingly stalled, lawmakers have been arguing that it is imperative to build further pressure on the Iranian economy as soon as possible.

Menendez sounded unconvinced by Kerry’s plea, saying he sees the “diplomatic window increasingly closing” and fears that Iran is close to having a nuclear weapons capability.

“I am concerned that if they can manage the present set of circumstances over the next five months or so, then we will have a real challenge,” he said. — Wire service