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Kerry to Brief US Congress on Iran Nuclear Deal


FILE - Secretary of State John Kerry.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will brief a skeptical Congress next week on a framework nuclear deal with Iran.

President Barack Obama's deputy national security advisor, Ben Rhodes, said Friday that Kerry will be joined by other senior U.S. officials when he heads to Capitol Hill next week.

Senators from both sides of the political spectrum are working to gain enough votes for a bill that would give Congress the opportunity to approve or reject sanctions relief in an Iran nuclear deal.

Rhodes said Kerry will tell Congress that the negotiating period with Iran is a sensitive time.

"The fact of the matter is next week we will have the ability to brief Congress on the framework. We will have the ability to explain why certain actions by Congress in this very sensitive negotiating period would be counterproductive to getting the deal done," Rhodes said.

Also Friday, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told CNN that the current framework deal for Iran does not take the military option off the table.

"We have the capability to shut down, set back and destroy the Iranian nuclear program, and I believe the Iranians know that and understand that," he said.

In another development Friday, Rhodes played down comments from Iran's leaders that any nuclear deal include an immediate lifting of sanctions. He said the tough stance by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani is the result of internal pressure and does not mean a final deal cannot be reached.

"They have their own hardliners who are skeptical of this deal," he said.

The Iranian leaders said this week that sanctions against Iran should be lifted on the first day that any deal is implemented. Rhodes reiterated that sanctions relief would be a gradual process.

Iran and the West have set a June 30 deadline to work out their disagreements, though Ayatollah Khamenei said Thursday it would not be "the end of the world" if that deadline were extended.

Iran and six world powers reached a framework agreement earlier this month. The U.S. and Iran have both released their own bullet-point interpretations of the framework agreement, since officials said they could not agree on a comprehensive document.

The U.S. government and many of its allies believe Iran's nuclear program is aimed at producing a weapon, despite Iran's insistence that the program is for civilian energy purposes.