Kerry to urge Congress to halt sanctions bill, as Iran threatens ‘dead’ deal

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Secretary of State John Kerry is under pressure to convince Congress to hold off on new sanctions legislation against Iran, as he prepares to testify Tuesday amid a renewed effort in the Senate to turn the screws on Tehran.

A bipartisan group of senators is preparing to propose new sanctions against Iran. News reports on the bill prompted that country’s foreign minister to warn such a step would kill the nuclear deal negotiated last month aimed at curbing Tehran’s uranium enrichment program.

“The entire deal is dead,” Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told TIME Magazine in an interview conducted Saturday and published Monday. “We do not like to negotiate under duress. And if Congress adopts sanctions, it shows lack of seriousness and lack of a desire to achieve a resolution on the part of the United States.”

The Obama administration is adamantly opposed to new legislation at this stage, and Kerry will likely try to persuade lawmakers to hold off, when he testifies Tuesday afternoon before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The Senate group, led by Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., has agreed that the new sanctions would take effect in six months, when the current interim deal brokered between the U.S., Iran, and five other world powers expires, if a satisfactory long-term deal is not struck. The sanctions would permit Iran to develop nuclear power for commercial purposes, so long as the development is monitored by the international community.

“We’ll do sanctions tied to the end game where the relief will only come if they stop the enrichment program, dismantle the reactor and turn over the enriched uranium,” Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told CNN Monday.

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