World News

US Nuclear Negotiator Calls for Pause in Iran Sanctions



The top U.S. nuclear negotiator is calling for a pause in U.S. congressional efforts to impose sanctions on Iran, weeks after accusing Iran of being deceptive about its nuclear program.

In an exclusive interview Friday with VOA's Persian service, U.S. Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman said any push for additional U.S. sanctions should be delayed to see if nuclear talks can "gain traction."

She said Obama administration officials have been speaking with Senate and House lawmakers about delaying the sanctions.



"Congress has its prerogatives. We don't get to control Congress, but we are having very serious discussions. We work as partners with Congress. I think they've been very effective partners as we've tried to approach this negotiation. We need them to continue to be effective partners to reach a successful conclusion, and I have trust that they will be."



Congress has been seeking harsher sanctions on Iran over its questionable nuclear program. Iran says its program has peaceful aims. But the West and Israel believe Iran is developing nuclear weapon capability.

Iran has also been hit with several rounds of U.N. sanctions for refusing to end its uranium enrichment program. Low-enriched uranium can be used for civilian nuclear power plants, but highly-enriched uranium is an integral part of a nuclear bomb.

U.S. and European Union sanctions imposed in 2011 have slashed Iran's oil exports by more than 1 million barrels per day.

The most substantive talks in years between Iran and Western powers began this month. But Sherman ignited a firestorm in Iran by recently saying the U.S. had to be cautious about cutting a nuclear deal with Iran because recent experience with the Iranians on their atomic program shows that "deception is part of the DNA."

In Friday's interview with VOA, Sherman said the remarks, made in testimony to a Senate committee on October 3, caused concern among the Iranian people and Iranian-Americans.



"And I think that those words spoke to some deep mistrust that President Obama discussed, and that we have to really work to get over that mistrust. I think these nuclear negotiations will help us to do so. It will take time. As he said, when you have decades of mistrust that go back to 1979 in the Iranian revolution. It's going to take a little time to get past that. We both need to work at it."



Sherman's DNA comment angered Iranian hardliners and media outlets.

In a front page editorial, a newspaper close to Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, urged Iran to boycott nuclear talks with the West if Sherman is present. A cartoon published by Iran's state-run Fars news agency depicts Sherman as a broom-riding witch.

Still, in her interview with VOA, Sherman gave no indication she will remove herself from the talks.

Jim Phillips, a Middle East analyst at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, told VOA Sherman was on target with her DNA comment.



"She spoke the truth when she said deception is part of their genes. It's part of the genes of this government that continues to lie not only to the world but also to lie to its own people."



Phillips also said Sherman's comment gave Iranian hardliners a chance to "get in a dig" at President Hassan Rouhani and to stir up anti-American sentiment among the Iranian people.



"That was kind of an opportunity for hardliners back in Tehran not only to get in a dig at Rouhani, who they see as too soft in dealing with the West, but also to whip anti-American sentiment among the Iranian people."



Until this month's meetings in Geneva, talks on Iran's atomic program had appeared to make little progress in recent years.

But there have been signs of a thaw since the election of relative moderate Rouhani as Iran's president in June. He has promised to lead a diplomatic effort to get economic sanctions against Iran eased.

The Geneva talks between Iran and the P5+1 - five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany - ended with upbeat assessments from both sides.

Also, U.S. President Barack Obama and Mr. Rouhani engaged in a short phone conversation on September 20, the first direct contact between the top leadership of the two countries in more than three decades.

But Phillips urged the P5+1 not to ease up on sanctions, saying they have brought Iran to the table for the first time "in a semi-serious way."



"If the U.S. or the other members of the Security Council ease up on Iran, then I think it will go back to its old policy of cheat and retreat, and there will not be a diplomatic solution to this problem."



The Geneva talks were the first since Mr. Rouhani was elected.. More negotiations among the parties are set for November 7.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs