Kerry: New Sanctions on Iran Would be a Mistake

(Reuters) -

Secretary of State John Kerry will tell U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday it would be a mistake for Congress to impose new sanctions on Iran now amid talks with Tehran over its nuclear program, the State Department said.

Kerry wants a “temporary pause” on new sanctions to allow diplomats from six world powers, including the United States, to negotiate with Iran and to test whether it may be possible to resolve a 10-year standoff over the Iranian nuclear program, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

Negotiations over the weekend between Iran and the major powers failed to reach an agreement on curbing the program, which Washington and its allies believe may be designed to develop nuclear weapons — something Tehran denies.

Psaki said Kerry will counsel a go-slow approach on Wednesday when he briefs the Senate Banking Committee, a key congressional panel in drafting Iran sanctions legislation.

“The secretary will be clear that putting new sanctions in place would be a mistake while we are still determining if there is a diplomatic path forward,” Psaki said at her daily briefing.

“What we are asking for right now is a pause, a temporary pause, in sanctions,” she added. “This is about ensuring that our legislative strategy and our negotiating strategy are running hand in hand.”

The White House on Tuesday echoed Kerry’s position that world powers were united in their effort to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran in spite of signs of a split.

“We remain united,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said at his daily briefing, adding that any deal would be one that “absolutely meets our standards” that would be a verifiable way to ensure Iran is not developing a nuclear weapon.