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Iran nuclear talks Day 1: Russian calls Congress an obstacle to a deal

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The focus on sanctions pits those – like Lavrov – who say any demands Tehran agrees to should be matched by reciprocal steps from the international community, against those – including much of Congress – who say the only reason Iran has come to the table is to find a way to wiggle out from under stifling sanctions.

A bipartisan group of US senators expressed that latter view in a statement on the eve of the Baghdad talks Tuesday, in which they said “the Iranian regime has come to the negotiating table only because of increasingly crippling pressure from sanctions. Therefore any hope for real diplomatic progress depends upon a continuing and expanding campaign of economic pressure on the Iranian regime.”

The statement, signed by 12 senators, was issued a day after the Senate, unanimously, passed a bill that would impose a new round of sanctions. The actions include a tightening of already approved measures against Iran’s central bank and new sanctions on joint ventures in the energy sector.

In a statement lauding the newest measures, Sen. Robert Menendez (D) of New Jersey said the Senate “sent a clear message to Iran as it prepares for the … talks in Baghdad: Provide a real and verifiable plan for the complete dismantling of your nuclear weapons program, or Washington will further tighten the economic noose.”

Iran insists its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes, such as civilian power generation and medical research.

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