US sees credible chance for Iran deal

2015-01-21 22:26
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Washington - The United States believes there is a "credible chance" of reaching a deal on Iran's nuclear programme in the coming months, a top State Department official said on Wednesday.

"Overall, our assessment remains that we have a credible chance to reach a deal that's in the best interests of America's security, as well as that of our allies and partners," Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany hope to conclude the major elements of a deal by the end of March and the technical details by June, said Blinken, the No 2 official at the State Department.

His remarks come as US President Barack Obama faces a challenge from Congress over his Iran policy, with many lawmakers seeking to impose new sanctions. Obama has called on them to hold off while negotiations are ongoing, and said he would veto any sanctions that reach his desk.

Obama has said the odds of reaching a deal are less than 50-50.

Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the committee, was among those urging new sanctions.

"While we are playing nice, however, Iran is playing an asymmetrical game, violating, in my view, the spirit and intent of sanctions," he said.

Blinken urged lawmakers to hold off, saying any sanctions, even if they did not take effect unless negotiations failed, would be seen as a dealbreaker by the Iranians.

"New sanctions at this time are both unnecessary and far from enhancing the prospect of negotiations, risk fatally undermining our diplomacy, making a deal less likely, and unravelling the sanctions regime that so many have worked so hard to put in place," he said.

Senator Bob Corker, the top Republican on the committee, also called for Congress to be given the opportunity to give an "up or down" vote to any agreement reached with Iran.

Read more on:    barack obama  |  us  |  iran  |  iran nuclear programme

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