Top senators pledge sanctions legislation after the holiday

WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Senate leaders pledged to revisit intensified Iran sanctions after the Thanksgiving holiday.

“The Senate must be prepared to move forward with a new bipartisan Iran sanctions bill when the Senate returns after Thanksgiving recess. And I am committed to do so,” Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the majority leader, told The Hill, a Capitol Hill daily, on Thursday. “I believe we must do everything possible to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons capability.”

Separately on Thursday, a bipartisan slate of 14 senators issued a statement saying they would work to reconcile a number of sanctions bills circulating “over the coming weeks.”

“A nuclear weapons capable Iran presents a grave threat to the national security interest of the United States and its allies and we are committed to preventing Iran from acquiring this capability,” said the statement signed by, among others, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), a leader in advancing sanctions, and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the body’s third-ranked Democrat.

The Obama administration is opposed to intensifying sanctions while negotiations with Iran are underway to stop its nuclear program in exchange for an easing of sanctions. Israel’s government and a number of lawmakers favor adding new sanctions as leverage in the talks.

However, the latest statements from senators are not inconsistent with the White House strategy; while the Obama administration has pressed the Senate not to pass new sanctions for now, it has encouraged Congress to make clear such an option is still on the table.

The third round of these talks are taking place now in Geneva.

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