The bill, which the White House has threatened to veto, requires
further reductions in Iran's oil exports and would apply new
penalties on other industries if Iran either violates the interim
agreement or fails to reach a final comprehensive deal.
Iran signed the six-month interim deal in Geneva on November 24 with
the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany.
The "Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act" had about 48 co-sponsors in the
100-member Senate on Monday, up from 26 when the bill was introduced
on December 19, an Senate aide said.
"Expect that number to keep growing over next couple of days as
folks who were out of town and staff get back in," the aide said.
The bill was introduced by Robert Menendez, the chairman of the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Mark Kirk, a Republican from
"We expect several Democrats to kind of cross the picket line and
come on board this week," the aide said.
While the bill has gained support, it remains uncertain if backers
can put together the two-thirds majority in the Senate needed to
override a veto by President Barack Obama.
The Obama administration has insisted the bill would damage delicate
talks being held between Iran and world powers over the nuclear
program, which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes. Iranian Foreign
Minister Mohammad Zarif has said a new sanctions law would kill the
While senior Democrats in the Senate like
Menendez, from New Jersey, and Charles Schumer, from New York,
support the new sanctions, there is a strong bloc of opposition in
the party. Ten Democratic senators, all leaders of committees, sent
a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid last month expressing
their opposition to the bill.
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A bipartisan group of nine senior foreign policy experts urged
Menendez and Kirk not to pass the new sanctions, saying the
penalties could potentially move the United States closer to war.
Ryan Crocker, a former ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan, and
Thomas Pickering, former Ambassador to Israel, India and the United
Nations, were among signers of a letter to the senators that said a
sanctions bill, even if it took effect in six months, would call
into question Washington's good faith and possibly isolate the
United States among the countries holding talks with Iran.
The bill gives the administration up to a year to pursue a
diplomatic track, which backers say would not violate terms of the
On oil exports, the new bill seeks to cut sales at least 30 percent
within a year and to zero within two years, if Iran breaks the deal
or a comprehensive deal is not reached.
Since 2012, U.S. and European sanctions have cut Iran's oil sales by
more than 1 million barrels per day, costing the country billions of
dollars a month and driving up inflation.
(Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Ros Krasny
and Cynthia Osterman)
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