US senators seek 20-year inspection of Iran nuclear program
Washington: Key US lawmakers, reduced to outside observers of the closed-door nuclear negotiations with Iran in Vienna, are demanding that any final agreement include decades of international inspections of Tehran`s atomic program.
"A final agreement with Iran must put in place a long-term inspections and verification regime that lasts at least 20 years," Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez and hawkish Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said in a letter they intend to send to President Barack Obama this week and were circulating on Tuesday.
Several other lawmakers are likely to sign on to pressure the executive branch to stand tough as the Sunday deadline in Vienna nears for striking a historic nuclear deal between Iran and six major world powers including the United States.
"Inspections by the IAEA (the UN`s International Atomic Energy Agency) must be intrusive, with Iran allowing IAEA inspectors access to any and all facilities, persons or documentation," the senators added.
Another condition: total transparency by Tehran over any possible military dimension to its atomic program.
"Iran must come clean," they wrote to the president. "Only once Iran has provided full details about its nuclear program can it begin to receive comprehensive sanctions relief."
Finally, the lifting of sanctions, which have punished Iran`s economy in recent years, must be "phased in over a lengthy period," and all consequences for Iran`s non-compliance or breach must be stipulated in the agreement, they said.
The House of Representatives last week sent a letter to Obama, signed by 342 of the chamber`s 435 members, saying Congress will agree to easing sanctions on the Islamic republic only if it verifiably ends its support for international terrorism and stops its advancing ballistic missile program and other unconventional weapons.
Congress in December and January stopped short of imposing further sanctions against Iran, with the White House opposed to tightening the punishments for fear the move would derail the historic talks.
Lawmakers are adamant that any gradual rollback of Iran sanctions by Obama be approved first by Congress.
Menendez said he is prepared to wait up until the Sunday deadline to allow negotiations to bear fruit in Vienna, or see whether participants end up extending the talks by several weeks or even months, as diplomats have signalled might happen.
"I`m all for trying to see an agreement happen," Menendez told reporters Tuesday.
"But if they`re not close, I`m not for extending for extension`s sake."
In a speech on the Senate floor, Menendez warned that mothballing Iran`s existing centrifuges rather than dismantling them would not be good enough for lawmakers to roll back sanctions.
"If Iran wants relief from sanctions, then it needs to tangibly demonstrate to the world that it is giving up its quest for nuclear weapons. Period," Menendez said.
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