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Congress Will Not Derail Nuclear Talks, Iran Says

Iran will not allow U.S. domestic politics to derail nuclear negotiations, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said Wednesday.
/ Source: NBC News

Iran will not allow U.S. domestic politics to derail nuclear negotiations, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said on Wednesday, after President Barack Obama conceded that Congress will have the power to review any final deal.

Republicans and some Democrats in Congress had pressured Obama to allow legislative oversight of the nuclear negotiations.

"That is an issue related to their domestic affairs. We are dealing with the American government," Afkham said at a news conference carried by state television.

The development injects a new element of uncertainty into the delicate final stages of negotiations between major powers and Iran aimed at curbing Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Secretary of State John Kerry — in Germany for a meeting of Group of Seven foreign ministers — said he was "confident" a deal could be reached.

"Looming large is the challenge of finishing the negotiation with Iran over the course of the next two and a half months," he said. "We are confident about our ability for the President to negotiate an agreement, and to do so with the ability to make the world safer."

Meanwhile, Israel's Intelligence Minister said his country was pleased by the news the White House would accept a Senate compromise on the Iran deal.

"We are certainly happy this morning," Yuval Steinitz said on Wednesday. "This is an achievement for Israeli policy," citing a March 3 speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Congress in which he argued against a then-emerging framework agreement with Tehran on curbing its nuclear program.

Steinitz said the compromise bill would be "a very important element in preventing a bad deal," or at least in improving the April 2 blueprint that world powers charted with Iran.

The bill requires the Obama administration to send the text of any final agreement with Iran to Congress as soon as it is completed, and blocks Obama's ability to waive many U.S. sanctions on Tehran while Congress reviews the deal. It allows a final vote on whether to lift sanctions imposed by Congress in exchange for Iran dismantling its nuclear capabilities.

It also requires that the White House send Congress regular, detailed reports on a range of issues including Iran's support for terrorism, ballistic missiles and nuclear program.

Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful, but it has never welcomed intrusive inspections and has in the past kept some nuclear sites secret.

- Reuters