Kerry warns Congress against Iran sanctions

Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday warned Congress against forcing the Obama administration's hand in dealing with Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program.

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Kerry urged his successor as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, hawkish Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), not to pursue further sanctions for now, as the United States and five other nations negotiate with Iran. 

Menendez said the Senate is considering legislation to limit Iran's access to its foreign currency reserves to create a “tipping point” in the country's response to outside pressure; House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and ranking member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) introduced a new sanctions bill in February.

“We still want a diplomatic resolution to this as our first choice. But if the Iranians, who know what they have to do, are not willing to come to the table, the clock will ultimately run out,” Kerry said at a committee hearing. “We're not there yet. We don't need to spin this up at this point in time.

“I think the president will be very clear with you when and if we need to do that. But for the moment, I think you need to leave us the window to try to work the diplomatic channel.”

Menendez said that window was “increasingly closing.” 

“We hope you'll be open to some of the initiatives that we may be considering,” he said. 

Kerry said the administration was “open,” but “I would really like to work with you on the timing.”

He said he needed to meet with Menendez and the other members of the committee in a classified session.

“I do think timing and the choice of when we might do something is critical. We need to cooperate together on that and you need to be aware of some things that I need to talk to you about in classified session.”