THE WHITE HOUSE — The White House says President Barack Obama would veto any new legislation imposing additional sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.
Legislation introduced in the Senate, supported as of Thursday by 26 Democratic and Republican senators, directly defies appeals from President Obama.
Called the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013, the measure would expand restrictions on Iran's energy sector. It also states that the United States should provide military, diplomatic and economic support to Israel if the Jewish state takes military action against Iranian facilities.
President Obama says U.S. lawmakers must allow the United States and other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany, to continue testing Iran's commitment to a diplomatic solution.
Iran and the P5+1 nations resumed expert-level talks in Geneva Thursday on the deal that requires Tehran to curb its nuclear program in return for some limited relief from economic sanctions.
The Senate legislation is not likely to come to a vote until some time in January. And lawmakers will no doubt come under even more pressure from the administration to drop the effort.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Obama would veto any bill containing new sanctions, which the interim nuclear agreement with Iran has said would not be imposed.
"We don't believe this proposal is necessary, as I think we have made clear, and we have been discussing with members of Congress for quite some time. We don't believe it will be enacted; we certainly know it's not necessary. If it were to pass, the president would veto it," Carney said.
The U.S. Treasury Department announced new enforcement actions against additional Iranian companies and individuals based on existing sanctions, a step that led Iran to temporarily interrupt discussions.
Carney said the White House has been in "regular and very direct" conversations with lawmakers, and reiterated that Congress could act quickly if Iran fails to comply. New sanctions, he said, could derail negotiations and suggest "bad faith" on the part of the United States.
Two Republicans who have signed on to the legislation -- John McCain and Lindsey Graham -- spoke in the Senate Thursday about the need to maintain pressure on Iran.
McCain said it would be appropriate for Congress to make clear to the Obama administration and to Iran's leadership that the "screws are going to tighten."
"Shouldn't there be some sanctions that would kick in after a six-month period which then the Iranians would know that if they don't reach an agreement then the sanctions would be more severe?" McCain asked.
White House spokesman Carney also responded to a question about remarks by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov regarding efforts to reach a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran, and the U.S. missile shield in Europe.
Speaking in Poland, where interceptors for the missile shield are to be deployed by 2018, Lavrov said successful implementation of the Geneva agreement would remove the cause for the U.S. missile shield.
Carney said the U.S. position has not changed, noting that an interim deal with Iran is "not a comprehensive agreement and not a resolution to the international community's concerns about Iran's nuclear program."