* 83 senators say Iran has no right to enrich uranium
* Majority of House also writes letter to Obama
* Arms control expert says lawmakers goals are not realistic
(Adds letter from House lawmakers, arms control expert
By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON, March 18 As talks on a nuclear deal
for Iran resumed in Vienna Tuesday, a wide majority of U.S.
senators urged President Barack Obama to insist that any final
agreement state that Iran "has no inherent right to enrichment
under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty."
That lack of entitlement was one of several principles the
83 senators outlined in the letter. They urged Obama to "insist
upon their realization in a final agreement" that six world
powers and Iran are hoping to hammer out by late July. The
senators also want to prevent Iran from ever having the capacity
to build nuclear weapons.
The initiative in the 100-member chamber was spearheaded by
Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat and the chairman of the
foreign relations committee, and Lindsey Graham, a South
Whether Iran should be able to enrich low-level uranium for
use in nuclear power plants is one of many issues expected to be
addressed in this week's talks on a comprehensive agreement over
its nuclear program. Such uranium can be further enriched to be
used in nuclear weapons.
Iran, a signatory of the 1970 NPT, insists it does have the
right to enrich low-level uranium for nuclear power plants.
Other countries that signed the treaty, such as Germany and
Japan, enrich uranium for their power plants.
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 and to prevent it from enriching any uranium,
which Obama has threatened a veto if it were to pass. The bill
is stalled in the Senate, after it did not get enough support to
overcome a veto.
The senators also wrote in the letter that any final
agreement must dismantle Iran's nuclear weapons program and
prevent it from ever having a uranium or plutonium path to a
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 another of the thorny issues
expected to be debated in the talks intended to work out a final
deal in the decade-old nuclear dispute by late July.
In the House of Representatives, 395 lawmakers in the
435-member chamber also sent a letter to Obama, asking him to
push for a deal in which Iran would not be able to build or buy
a nuclear weapon.
An arms control expert said Congress was sending a message
that could harm the talks because Iran's nuclear weapons
capacity can be significantly reduced but not eliminated
"If Congress insists on unattainable outcomes ... the
chances for a diplomatic resolution will decrease, Iran's
nuclear capabilities may grow, and the chances of a conflict
will increase," said Daryl Kimball, head of the Arms Control
TOO MUCH RELIEF?
The senators also said Iran must not be allowed to
circumvent sanctions during the six-month temporary deal
implemented on Jan. 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 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.
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," they wrote.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Stephen Powell and