Senators urge Obama to block Iran's path to nuclear weapons

WASHINGTON Tue Mar 18, 2014 2:41pm EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama listens to remarks during his meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House in Washington March 17, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. President Barack Obama listens to remarks during his meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House in Washington March 17, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A majority of U.S. senators on Tuesday urged President Barack Obama to insist a final agreement on Iran's nuclear program contains a measure to prevent Tehran from ever having a path to nuclear weapons, as talks on the deal resumed in Vienna.

"We believe any agreement must dismantle Iran's nuclear weapons program and prevent it from ever having a uranium or plutonium path to a nuclear bomb," 83 senators wrote in a letter to Obama on Tuesday. The initiative was spearheaded by Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat and the chairman of the foreign relations committee, and Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican.

Western powers fear that Iran's Arak planned research reactor, once operational, could provide a supply of plutonium, one of two materials including highly enriched uranium that can trigger a nuclear explosion.

How to deal with Arak is one of the thorny issues expected to be tackled this week in the talks between Iran and six global powers over the nuclear program. The talks aim to work out a final deal in the decade-old nuclear dispute by late July.

The U.S. Congress has long taken a harder line on Iran than the White House. Menendez has sponsored a bill to impose new sanctions on Iran, which Obama has threatened to veto if passed. It is stalled in the Senate.

Iran has no inherent right to enrich uranium under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the senators said in the letter. That is another sticky issue that could complicate the talks.

Iran insists it has the right to enrich low-level uranium for nuclear power plants.

The senators also said Iran must not be allowed to circumvent sanctions during the six-month temporary deal implemented on January 20.

Under that deal, which can be renewed, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for gaining access to more than $4 billion in oil revenues that had been frozen by Western sanctions.

Backers of strong sanctions have complained that data showing Iran's oil exports increased in February reveals the temporary deal is allowing Iran to get more economic relief than originally thought.

The Obama administration believes that Iran's oil shipments will fall in coming months and will be held to 1 million barrels per day on average from February to July.

But the senators are not convinced. The months during talks on a final deal are "fraught with the danger of companies and countries looking to improve their commercial position in Tehran," the senators wrote.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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Comments (5)
sabrefencer wrote:
Only thing Obama can block, is some poor 5 year olds march to the coca cola machine..

Mar 18, 2014 3:13pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Thomsonx1 wrote:
HA ! Good luck with our do nothing President, he has this country in shambles and you want him to do what?

Mar 18, 2014 3:36pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Chazz wrote:
Come on Mr. President! Do something bold and strong this time – draw a Red Line or something or….mention “sanctions” – that always gets naughty countries to stop doing bad stuff.

Offer the Iranians access to ACA – that’s a friggin’ GIFT that no one would want to turn down! The working half of America will gladly pay for it because it’s their “fair share.”

Mar 18, 2014 4:15pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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