Engel, Royce urge negotiators to prevent Iranian nukes ‘capability’


WASHINGTON (JTA) — The top Republican and Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee urged U.S. negotiators to ensure that Iran had no nuclear weapons “capability.”

“We believe that any final agreement between the P5+1 and Iran must foreclose any pathway for Iran to develop a nuclear weapons capability,” said the statement Thursday from the offices of Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), the committee chairman and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), its senior Democrat.

“P5+1” refers to the six nations, led by the United States, in nuclear talks with Iran that are due to wrap up by Monday.

The reference to “capability” is a nod to Israeli demands that any deal end Iranian uranium enrichment altogether.

Top U.S. officials have said that a likely outcome is a minimal enrichment capability for Iran.

Engel and Royce said they would continue close oversight of any deal.

“Oversight of these issues has been a top Committee priority,” they said. “We will continue working to evaluate the outcome of these negotiations to determine if they are in the long-term national security interests of the United States and our allies — and act accordingly.”

The Obama administration has until now managed to deflect congressional interference in the talks, which started in January, but will likely be under greater pressure to heed objections from lawmakers now that Republicans have won majorities in both chambers.

A deal “must include an effective, intrusive, and long-term verification mechanism that would give us ample warning of any attempt by Iran to break out,” the statement said. “It must also require Iran to come clean on its past work to develop a bomb.”

John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, arrived in Vienna Thursday to lead the talks, a sign of the Obama administration’s determination to extract a deal.

“Despite the skepticism that many expressed when we first reached the JPOA, as it was known – the Joint Plan of Action – the world is already safer because of it,” Kerry said at a press conference, referring to the interim agreement governing the talks.

“And all sides have stuck to their commitments made under that agreement. Consequently, we are today closer to resolving the international concerns around Iran’s nuclear program through diplomatic means,” he said.

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