'Give diplomacy a chance,' Obama says to Senate on Iran deal
By Justin Sink - 01/13/14 04:36 PM EST
President Obama urged Congress on Monday to "give diplomacy a chance," imploring lawmakers to hold off on additional sanctions against Iran as negotiators seek to take advantage of a six-month interim deal.
"It's going to be difficult, it's going to be challenging, but ultimately this is how diplomacy should work," Obama said, adding that the negotiating window formalized over the weekend should give world powers "the time and space" they need to formalize a permanent deal with Tehran.
"My preference is for peace and diplomacy, and this is one of the reasons why I've sent the message to Congress that now is not the time for us to impose new sanctions, now is the time for us to allow the diplomats and technical experts to do their work," Obama said.
Under the deal with Iran, the U.S. is loosening economic sanctions in exchange for a freeze to aspects of its nuclear program. Weapons inspectors will also be granted greater access to Iranian facilities.
But a bipartisan group of senators, including more than a dozen Democrats, has said it wants to pass legislation that would ramp up penalties on Iran if it fails to strike a long-term deal.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) are among those backing a bill that would impose penalties on banks and companies that help Iran export more oil and blacklist certain Iranian industries if Tehran does not agree to a comprehensive nuclear agreement.
Over the weekend, Obama said in a statement he would veto that legislation and that the bill endangered negotiations with Iran.
And on Monday, press secretary Jay Carney said Congress should wait to evaluate Iran's seriousness, rather than potentially disrupt the process.
“We believe we have the opportunity to test whether or not this can be resolved between the international community and Iran peacefully, which is the preferred way it would be resolved,” Carney said.