SENATE DEMANDS SANCTIONS
New penalties from the United States against Iran appear a done deal as the Islamic republic’s new president takes over.
In a letter to President Barack Obama, 76 senators are demanding tougher punishment on Iran’s economy until it scales back its nuclear program.
The Obama administration is concerned Congress’ effort could undercut Iran’s relatively moderate President-elect Hasan Rowhani, who took the oath of office on Sunday. regarding stalled talks on Iran’s nuclear drive.
Iran has held repeated rounds of talks with the socalled P5+ 1 group, which comprises China, Britain, France, Russia, the US and Germany, but there has been no clear progress toward ending a decade-long dispute.
Khamenei has so far blocked direct talks with the US over the nuclear issue, saying Washington is “not trustworthy” as a negotiating partner. The EU and the US have slapped sanctions on Iran over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. Western powers and Israel suspect Iran is developing nuclear weapons, but Teheran insists its activities are only peaceful.
Over the past two years, the sanctions have sent inflation in Iran soaring to more than 30 percent while the Iranian rial has lost nearly 70 percent of its value against the US dollar and created double-digit unemployment.
Rowhani said the Iranians expect “stability in all fields, and the removal of all concerns and bottlenecks that Iran faces”, warning that “satisfying the demands of the people ... will not happen at once”.
Hua Liming, former Chinese ambassador to Iran, said the future of Iran-West relations depend on how the two sides interact with each other.
“Despite being more flexible, Rowhani is unlikely to fundamentally change the country’s nuclear stance, while if the West imposes increasing sanctions to it, the opportunities for dialogue will be more elusive,” said Hua, referring to a sanction bill targeting Iran that the US House of Representatives passed last week.
AFP contributed to this story.