Lawmakers demand tougher Iran deal

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate sent the Obama administration bipartisan letters Tuesday urging him to beef up a proposed deal with Iran when negotiators meet again in Geneva on Wednesday.

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The lawmakers object to a proposal that would loosen sanctions in exchange for Iran freezing the most advanced aspects of its program. Iran rejected the proposal earlier this month after France sought to strengthen it, but Secretary of State John Kerry said negotiators remain “extremely close” to a deal.

“We feel strongly that any easing of sanctions along the lines that [the international community] is reportedly considering should require Iran to roll back its nuclear program more significantly than now envisioned,” six senators wrote in a letter to Kerry.

“It is our belief that any interim agreement with the Iranians should bring us closer to our ultimate goal which is Iran without a nuclear weapons capability.”

The letter in particular urges U.S. negotiators to demand that Iran suspend all uranium reprocessing, heavy-water-related and enrichment-related activities and halt ongoing construction of any uranium-enrichment, reprocessing or heavy-water-related facilities. It was signed by Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).

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On the House side, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and ranking member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) sent President Obama a similar letter.

The top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs panel joined his Republican colleague Tuesday in expressing their “great concern” about the Obama administration's negotiations with Iran.

Engel and Royce said the “scope and content” of a proposal to loosen sanctions in exchange for Iran freezing the most advanced aspects of its program caused them great concern. The lawmakers told The Hill last week that they were planning a bipartisan push to get Obama to toughen his position.

“We are writing to express our great concern regarding the scope and content of the interim agreement under negotiation with Iran,” they wrote. “Mr. President, the United States cannot allow Iran to continue to advance toward a nuclear weapons capability while at the same time providing relief from the sanctions pressure we worked so hard to build, and the Administration has worked to enforce.”

The letters come the same day Obama met with top senators to urge them to postpone new sanctions. Israel and its allies are pressuring the Senate to quickly pass legislation mirroring sanctions on Iran's energy sector that sailed through the House 400-20 in July.

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