By Jeremy Herb - 04/17/12 10:16 PM EDT
Senate Republicans said they were unimpressed by the Iranian nuclear negotiations over the weekend, saying the talks with six world powers were merely buying more time for Iran to continue enriching uranium.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) mocked the negotiations, which European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton, the lead negotiator for six world powers, had called "constructive."
McCain said it was tough to see how the talks would accomplish anything beyond “a stalling tactic on the part of the Iranians.”
McCain ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the Obama administration should drop negotiations with Iran and make demands to stop Tehran's nuclear program.
“We’ve been negotiating for years with little to show for it,” Graham told reporters. “We’ve come to a point now we basically need to give demands to the Iranians saying 'these are the three things we want you to do.' ”
The Obama administration has defended its diplomatic route with Iran after the talks between Tehran and the P5+1 group — the five permanent United Nations Security Council members and Germany — got under way this weekend. The two sides agreed to hold a second round of talks in Baghdad next month.
President Obama pushed back against criticism from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who took a similar line as the GOP in calling the negotiations a “freebie” for Iran.
Obama said at a press conference Sunday that the notion Iran received a “freebie” was wrong because Iran has not gotten anything out of the talks, as sanctions remain in place.
Both McCain and Graham support a bipartisan Senate bill for new economic sanctions against Iran. The bill quickly passed out of committee earlier this year but was held up in March by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who objected to expedited passage of the bill over Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) not allowing amendments.
Paul wants to offer an amendment that says nothing in the measure “is to be construed as a declaration of war or as an authorization of the use of force in Iran or Syria.”
Reid told reporters Tuesday that he wanted to move quickly on the Iran sanctions bill, and that his staff was meeting Tuesday with “interested parties” to try and find a way out of the stalemate. He did not give a specific timeline, however.
“Each day that goes by without Iran feeling more of our censorship, I think that's too bad for the world and helpful to Iran,” Reid said. “We need to move forward on this as quickly as possible.”