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 do not get to control Congress, but we are having very serious discussions. We work as partners with Congress. I think they have been very effective partners as we have 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 weapons 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 one 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 is 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.

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

Middle East analyst Jim Phillips, of 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 is 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.

But there have been signs of a thaw since the election of the relativly moderate Mr. Rouhani. 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.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs