U.S. Senate advances Iran sanctions bill, eyes new Russia sanctions

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to advance a bill that would impose new sanctions on Iran, the same day at least 12 people were killed in attacks in Tehran, as lawmakers planned to add a package of sanctions on Russia to the measure.

The vote was 92-7 on a procedural motion to end debate on the Iran sanctions bill, clearing the way for a vote later on passage of the legislation.

Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat, said most members of his party supported the Iran bill, but that they would only agree to let it go ahead because they expected it would be amended to include “a strong package” of new sanctions on Russia as well.

Many lawmakers have been clamoring for new sanctions on Russia over its alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and support for Syria’s government in that country’s six-year-long civil war.

Schumer said he was negotiating with the Senate’s Republican leaders on the Russia sanctions.

Some senators had urged that Wednesday’s procedural vote be delayed, arguing that the timing was inappropriate because of the attacks in Iran.

“The country has just suffered from two significant terrorist attacks after electing a moderate government with 57 percent of the vote — we need to give Iran the opportunity to recover and set a new course,” Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said in a statement.

A senior Senate aide said the Iran sanctions measure could come up for a vote as soon as next week.

The legislation would impose new sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile development, arms transfers, support for Islamist militant groups and human rights violations. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed it 18-3 last month.

To become law, the measure would also have to pass the Republican-led House of Representatives and be signed by President Donald Trump.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Peter Cooney