Several American lawmakers expressed doubt Wednesday on a possible deal between world powers and Tehran over its disputed nuclear program.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is set to brief lawmakers on the Senate banking committee later Wednesday about the latest round of negotiations with Tehran. The talks in Geneva failed to produce a deal but Kerry expressed optimism, saying negotiators were very close to an agreement.
At a hearing Wednesday, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, Republican Ed Royce, questioned the benefits of a proposed deal.
"There is growing concern in Congress that the outlines of this agreement do not meet the standards needed to protect the United States and to protect U.S. allies."
The committee's ranking Democrat, Eliot Engel, also warned Iran needs to give more or risk facing new sanctions.
"If these talks are about Iran abandoning its nuclear program, then to show good faith, at the very least while the talks are going on, Iran should stop enrichment, period."
Iran insists its nuclear program has always been designed for peaceful purposes and is seeking an easing of sanctions as part of any deal. The State Department has warned enacting new sanctions at this stage would be a mistake, urging lawmakers to give diplomacy more time.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, a Democrat, has called for tougher sanctions ahead of any deal, writing that they "will serve as an incentive for Iran to verifiably dismantle its nuclear weapons program."
Officials from both Iran and the P5+1 group, made up of the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany, have expressed optimism about their latest round of negotiations, despite failing so far to agree on a deal. The talks will continue next week.
Iran has also been negotiating with the United Nations' nuclear agency and recently signed an agreement that will allow expanded inspections of its nuclear sites. But the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency says he sees "no radical change'' in Iran's nuclear programme over the past three months.
Yukiya Amano told Reuters Wednesday Tehran has continued its most sensitive nuclear activity, enrichment of uranium to 20 percent. Iran says it needs the 20 percent material to fuel a medical research reactor. But experts warn it puts Iran on the fast-track to producing 90 percent enriched uranium required for making a nuclear warhead.