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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora