US sanctions threat as Iran talks fail

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By FT

Senior members of the  US Congress  insisted on Sunday that they would push ahead with new sanctions on Iranian oil exports, after  France  scuppered a widely anticipated deal on Tehran’s nuclear programme.

Amid recriminations on all sides over the talks,  Iran  blamed  France  for blocking a historic agreement while  Israel  continued to denounce the US strategy towards  Tehran .

John Kerry , US secretary of state, was forced on to the defensive at home by the storm of criticism from key allies and from  Congress  over the administration’s approach.

Mr Kerry  insisted that the administration would continue trying to reach a diplomatic agreement. “We are not blind, and I don’t think we’re stupid,” said Mr Kerry , in response to criticism that the US had been willing to give up too much in order to reach a preliminary agreement with  Iran .

He told  NBC : “I think we have a pretty strong sense of how to measure whether or not we are acting in the interests of our country and of the globe and particularly of our allies like  Israel  and Gulf States and others in the region.”

Although the administration has urged  Congress  to hold off on new sanctions,  Robert Menendez , the  New Jersey  Democrat who chairs the  Senate foreign affairs committee, said the upper house would “move forward” on a bill to cut further Iranian oil exports.

Mr Menendez  said any agreement needed to involve an Iranian commitment to halt all enrichment of uranium. “We seem to want the deal almost more than the Iranians,” he said. “And you can’t want the deal more than the Iranians, especially when the Iranians are on the ropes.”
Three days of intense negotiations in  Geneva  failed to reach an interim deal to freeze a programme that many in the west fear is close to being weaponised. Talks between  Iran  and the US,  Russia ,  China ,  France  and  Britain  are due to resume on  November 20 .

The administration’s difficulties in securing a deal are likely to encourage those critics at home and abroad who argue that the US was not taking a tough enough approach.

The talks faltered in part because of objections from  France , which wanted tougher restrictions placed on the heavy water plant that  Iran  is building at Arak. This could be used to manufacture plutonium for a nuclear bomb.

Iran’s foreign minister indirectly blamed  France  for blocking the potential deal. “There was a possibility to reach an agreement . . . but there was a need to have the consent of all and as you have heard . . . one of the delegations had some problems,”  Mohammad Javad Zarif  said in a  Facebook  post.


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