WASHINGTON - The United Nations Security Council has scheduled a vote for Monday morning on a resolution endorsing the Iran nuclear deal.
With all five permanent members of the Security Council involved in the marathon negotiations with Iran, the resolution's adoption is almost certain.
The U.N. vote will come as U.S. lawmakers begin their own review of the historic deal. The Obama administration on Sunday sent the nuclear agreement to Congress.
Members of the U.S. legislature have 60 days to review the pact, with some Republicans vowing to reject it. Lawmakers can vote to approve or reject the pact.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell predicted President Barack Obama will have a “real challenge” getting the pact through a skeptical, Republican-led Congress, and criticized it as “the best deal acceptable to Iran, rather than one that might actually end Iran’s nuclear program."
Obama has promised to veto any congressional attempt to kill the initiative.
Selling the deal
U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is on a tour of the Middle East, as part of efforts to ease fears about the nuclear deal. Carter began the trip in Israel Sunday and will travel to Saudi Arabia, Iran's main regional rival.
On Tuesday, Carter will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has called the deal a "historic mistake" that would only make it easier for Iran to back its proxies in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia has officially said it supports the deal, although it is also thought to have similar concerns to Israel's that the agreement will enhance the Shi'ite power’s influence across the Middle East.
“One of the reasons this deal is a good one is that it does nothing to prevent the military option… which we are preserving and continually improving,” Carter told reporters en route to Tel Aviv. “But the point of the nuclear deal is to get the result of no Iranian nuclear weapon without carrying out a military strike.”
He said he does not expect to change Israeli officials’ minds about the deal, but said the two countries could “agree to disagree.”
In a series of high-profile television appearances Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addressed the American public for the first time since signing off on an Iran nuclear deal last week.
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Kerry said the agreement, which culminated from months of talks between the top diplomats of seven countries, likely won't restart diplomatic relations with Tehran.
A visit by the secretary to Iran is "not being contemplated," Kerry told ABC News’ program This Week.
"We don't have relations at this point," he added.
The accord followed several rounds of intense negotiations between Iran and six world powers to limit Tehran's atomic program to civilian use.
On Saturday, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei commented the deal does not signal cooperation with the U.S. and its allies on other issues, triggering a stern response from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.
"If anyone thought that the sweeping concessions for Iran would bring about a change in its policy, they have received a decisive answer over the weekend..." Netanyahu said Sunday during a weekly cabinet meeting. "The Iranians don't even make an effort to hide the fact that they will use the hundreds of billions of dollars they will receive in this deal to arm their terror machine."
As part of efforts to alleviate concerns about deal, which cuts Iran's nuclear capability in exchange for loosened economic sanctions, Secretary Kerry will go to the Gulf region in August.
British PM reacts
In an interview that aired Sunday, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he isn't idealistic about what the deal means for diplomatic relations with Iran.
"We shouldn't be naive or starry-eyed in any way about the regime that we are dealing with. I am certainly not," he told NBC's Meet the Press.
"I spoke to [Iranian] President [Hassan] Rouhani yesterday and said we want to see a change in approach that Iran takes to issues like Syria and Yemen and to terrorism in the region and we want the change in behavior that should follow from that change. So we are not starry-eyed at all and I would reassure our Gulf allies about that, but actually taking the nuclear weapon issue of the table -- that is a success."
Saudi Arabia on Friday sent its foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, to the White House where he received reassurances about the nuclear deal from President Obama.
At a regular briefing after the private meeting, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Obama and the Saudi foreign minister talked about the Iranian nuclear agreement and how to boost security cooperation.
The spokesman did not give details of how the United States would increase military assistance, but said the discussions built on talks Obama held with senior officials from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council nations at Camp David in May, when the president said the United States is prepared to work jointly with GCC member states to deter and confront an external threat to any GCC state’s territorial integrity.