WASHINGTON, March 18 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
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
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
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)