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Menendez: Suspend Iran Nuclear Talks if Iran Won't Budge

Menendez is asking new questions about Iran's intentions in the Iran talks. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A Democratic senator who has led calls for stronger sanctions against Iran is joining Republicans skeptical of the country's intentions when it comes to the ongoing talks over nuclear capabilities.  

In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Sen. Robert Menendez said the United States should step back from multinational nuclear negotiations with Iran.  

"I am writing to express my grave concern about recent demands by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Iran's parliament rejecting critical elements of an agreement for a possible nuclear deal," the New Jersey Democrat wrote. "If Iran insists on these redlines in negotiations, then I strongly urge you to suspend negotiations rather than accept a bad deal with Iran."  

Kerry was headed to Vienna, Austria, on Friday for additional negotiations ahead of a June 30 deadline.  

In outlining his concerns, Menendez cited a June 23 speech by Khamenei in which the leader made policy pronouncements against allowing military inspections and calling for all sanctions (including those imposed by acts of the U.S. Congress) to be lifted immediately.  

"These demands are unacceptable — they presuppose that the government of Iran will act in good faith, when it has shown itself in the past to be an untrustworthy negotiating partner," Menendez wrote. "The Iranian regime had spent decades deceiving the international community, it stands in violation of its international commitments, and it continues to deny the International Atomic Energy Agency access to its facilities and answers to questions about its nuclear-related military activities."  

Under legislation passed overwhelmingly by Congress and signed into law, there is a process for congressional review and potential disapproval of any agreement between the United States and other members of the P5+1 with Iran. The Foreign Relations Committee, under Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., has met regularly in open and closed sessions to understand the terms of the negotiations, including technical details.  

Corker wants the committee members ready to respond if needed upon any announcement of an agreement.

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