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US Senate Leader: Iran Nuclear Deal 'Hard Sell' in Congress


FILE - Senators Mitch McConnell (foreground) and Lindsey Graham approach a podium to speak to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington.

FILE - Senators Mitch McConnell (foreground) and Lindsey Graham approach a podium to speak to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington.

The United States has been one of six world powers taking part in the Iranian nuclear talks in Vienna. A top U.S. lawmaker says any deal resulting from the talks will leave Iran as what he calls a ‘threshold nuclear state.’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is the chief representative of the Republican Party in the Senate. He also says it will be difficult to get congressional approval for a nuclear deal with Iran. He says no deal is better than a bad agreement that would ‘legitimize’ the country’s government.

On Sunday, the Senate Majority Leader criticized President Barack Obama and members of his negotiating team at the nuclear talks. Senator McConnell told Fox News television that the Obama administration’s position is to reach any deal that Iran is willing to agree to. He says there was another possibility: supporting new measures aimed at punishing Iran for its nuclear activities.

"We could have ratcheted up the sanctions even further because that’s what brought them to the (negotiating) table in the first place. But the administration chose to go down this path and we’re going to be interested in things like, will the Iranians reveal their past research and development, what have they done in the past on this subject?"

The senator says U.S. lawmakers have concerns about Iran’s ability to launch ballistic missiles. And he says they are worried about Iranian involvement in Syria, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and Yemen.

Last May, Congress approved and President Obama signed into law the Iran Nuclear Deal Review Act. The measure gives lawmakers the power to approve or reject a nuclear agreement. It gives Congress up to 60 days to study an agreement and bars the president from lifting any economic actions during that period. The president could sign the deal or veto it. Congress would need a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate to cancel a veto.

Appearing on a separate program Sunday, House Speaker John Boehner said no deal with Iran is better than a bad deal:

"And from everything that’s leaked from these negotiations, the administration has backed away from almost all of the guidelines that they set out for themselves, and I don’t want to see a bad deal."

He says measures against Iran should remain in effect until the country ends its efforts to get a nuclear weapon and stops being the world’s largest state supporter of terrorism. He says a disagreement with Iran is better than, in his words, legitimizing a rogue regime.

Bob Corker is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He says the negotiations with Iran have been on what he calls a downward trend. He thinks the talks have reached a point of no return. He questions what he sees as a decision by negotiators to suspend their efforts to break up Iran’s nuclear program. He says the negotiators are instead seeking to control Iran’s nuclear activities.

The committee’s top Democrat, Bob Menendez, says the agreement taking shape in Vienna makes him anxious. He says the world seems to be prepared to cut back sanctions for the promise of verification, or confirmation, of Iran’s actions. He notes this is far different from the earlier objective of breaking down Iran’s nuclear infrastructure:

"We have to make very clear that there is a deterrence in the longer term because, if not, in 12, 13 years we’ll be exactly back to where we are today except Iran will have $100 billion, $150-billion more in its pocket and promoting terrorism throughout the Middle East."

He says Iran must be made to understand that the U.S. cannot accept an Iran with a nuclear weapon.

I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.

VOA’s Victor Beattie reported on this story from Washington, DC. George Grow adapted it for Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.

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Words in This Story

thresholdn. the entrance to a room or building; the point or level at which something begins or changes.

legitimizev. to make legal or acceptable

sanction(s)n. actions or measures designed to punish someone or something for disobeying rules

reveal – v. to show or make public

rogue regime – n. a government that carries out policies in unpredictable ways

downward trend – n. movement to a lower level or position

anxious – adj. feeling nervous or uneasy about some future event

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