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Reid to bring Iran bill by mid-February

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. Senate majority leader pledged to bring an Iran sanctions bill to the floor within weeks.

"This critical legislation would impose new sanctions on Iran’s refined petroleum sector and tighten existing U.S. sanctions," Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday on the Senate floor, referring to the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2009. "The act will create new pressure on the Iranian regime and help stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon."

The congressional session ends Feb. 14.

The Foreign Relations Committee, headed by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), is considering White House requests for changes in the bill as now drafted. It is unclear if the bill Reid would bring to the floor would include the expansive sanctions targeting Iran’s energy sector favored by some in the pro-Israel community.

Such sanctions are included in a similar bill passed last month by the U.S. House of Representatives.

A letter sent Wednesday by a bipartisan slate of nine U.S. senators urged President Obama to sign the bill once it is passed and to exercise existing sanctions available to him.

The letter, signed by Sens. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and David Vitter (R-La.), expressed support for multilateral sanctions, Obama’s preferred option, but also urged him not to delay in pursuing unilateral sanctions.

"We hope that, as early as this month, your administration will pursue parallel and complementary measures, outside the [U.N.] Security Council, to increase the pressure on the Iranian government," it said. These include sanctions targeting third parties that deal with Iran.

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