| WASHINGTON, July 14
WASHINGTON, July 14 Two influential U.S.
senators have asked fellow lawmakers to support demands that
Iran accept tough conditions in nuclear talks, including at
least two decades of inspections, before Congress would agree to
The appeal was made as Iran and six major powers, including
the United States, approach a deadline in talks in Vienna aimed
at a deal in which Iran would curb its nuclear program in
exchange for gradual relief from crippling economic sanctions.
Democrat Robert Menendez and Republican Lindsey Graham, who
believe President Barack Obama's administration should not act
without Congressional backing, distributed a letter among
senators saying they want Iran to "come clean" about any
military dimensions of its nuclear program.
They accused Tehran of a "history of deception in its
nuclear program," and said they feared long-term U.S. concerns
would not be addressed in any agreement. Rather, a deal ending
U.S. sanctions may "provide Iran a window for economic recovery
whereafter it could resume its nuclear program," they said.
It was unclear how much support the letter, a copy of which
was obtained by Reuters on Monday, would attract among the 100
Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations
committee, and Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services
Committee, also called for immediate resumption of sanctions if
Iran did not keep its commitments.
The letter sought signatures by Wednesday, four days before
the July 20 deadline for an agreement
With both sides complaining of scant progress, U.S.
Secretary of State John Kerry met Iranian Foreign Minister
Mohammad Javad Zarif in Vienna on Monday for a second day to
push for "critical choices" on Tehran's nuclear program.
Some activists who advocate an agreement criticized the
letter as an attempt by hawkish lawmakers to derail the talks.
"The Senate should be careful not to unnecessarily
complicate the process at this critical stage. Otherwise they
may be the ones who get the blame for the consequences," said
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control
The Senate's Democratic leaders early this year blocked a
bill from Menendez and Republican Mark Kirk that would have cut
Iran's oil exports to almost zero and reduced Obama's power to
waive sanctions if Tehran violated an interim deal.
Lawmakers and congressional aides told Reuters last week
they expected Senate leaders would step in again if hawkish
lawmakers attempted to pass legislation deemed detrimental to
Adam Sharon, a spokesman for Menendez, said the letter was
not an attempt to derail the talks.
"There is a role for Congress to play, and it's a role
Congress has played for about a decade," he said, noting that
U.S. lawmakers had pushed for the current sanctions regime,
which helped bring Iran to the negotiating table.
He would not say how many lawmakers had signed the letter,
which was first distributed to senators on Friday.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by David Storey and