WASHINGTON (Reuters) — 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
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
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 Carolina
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
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 nuclear bomb.
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
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 altogether.
"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 Association.
TOO MUCH RELIEF?
The senators also said Iran must not be allowed to circumvent
sanctions during the six-month temporary deal implemented on January
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 sanctions.
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 originally thought.
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