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Democrats breaking with Obama on Iran deal: Report

US President Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama

Tehran, March 16, IRNA — Several Democratic senators are breaking with the Obama administration on diplomacy with Iran, expressing their support for Republican legislation that would undercut a nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic, according to a report.

Republicans appear to be approaching the point where they will secure veto-proof majorities for legislation that would undermine any agreement reached with Iran, POLITICO reported.

Democrats said they still backed legislation to give review power to Congress over a nuclear deal, even though they were offended by an open letter – drafted by Sen. Tom Cotton and signed by 46 other Senate Republicans –warning Iranian leaders that any nuclear deal might be revoked by the next US president.

“The letter’s incredibly unfortunate and inappropriate,” said Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, Democrat of North Dakota, who voted for the sanctions bill in committee. “That doesn’t diminish my support for the legislation that we introduced,” he told POLITICO.

Support for the legislation was echoed by other Senate Democrats, including Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan.

“The letter was simply unacceptable, and it brought hyper-partisanship to an issue that we need to maintain our bipartisanship in,” he said. “That doesn’t change my support for that bill. … I stay firm.”

The letter followed a speech to Congress earlier this month by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who warned US lawmakers that the White House was negotiating “a very bad deal” with Tehran.

The White House has implored Congress to stop interfering in the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group, which have entered a crucial final stage ahead of the July 1 deadline for a final agreement.

In a letter released Saturday, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough asked Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) not to push for a vote on his bill that would give Congress 60 days to review any deal with Iran.

The measure, which has nearly a dozen Democratic supporters, would ‘likely have a profoundly negative impact on the ongoing negotiations,” McDonough wrote in his letter.

Sen. Corker said, “There’s going to be really ignited momentum” to push the legislation forward. “Nobody’s dropping out. We’ve had reaffirmed commitment” from Democrats.

White House officials have rebuffed Congress’ desire for weighing in on the nuclear talks with Iran.

US Secretary of State John Kerry denounced the GOP letter to Iran as an “unprecedented” and “calculated” attempt to interfere with the nuclear talks.

Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif held discussions for five hours in the Swiss city of Lausanne on Monday.

The meeting was also attended by head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), Ali Akbar Salehi, Zarif’s deputies, Abbas Araqchi and Majid Takht-e Ravanchi, special assistant to Iran’s president, Hossein Fereidoun, US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman.

Iran and the P5+1 countries – the US, Britain, France, China, and Russia plus Germany – are negotiating to seal a comprehensive nuclear deal by the end of this month. The two sides have already missed two self-imposed deadlines for a final deal since they signed an interim one in the Swiss city of Geneva in November 2013.

By IRNA