(Adds Kerry to testify on Tuesday, U.S. quotes, edits,
By Arshad Mohammed
WASHINGTON Dec 9 Iranian Foreign Minister Javad
Zarif said the Iranian nuclear deal would be dead if the U.S.
Congress imposes new sanctions, even if they do not take effect
for six months, Time Magazine said on Monday.
In a transcript of the interview, which was conducted on
Saturday and posted online on Monday, Time said it asked Zarif
what would happen if Congress imposed new sanctions, even if
they did not go into effect for six months.
"The entire deal is dead." replied Zarif. He was referring
to a Nov. 24 interim agreement with six world powers under which
Tehran would curb its nuclear program in exchange for limited
relief from economic sanctions over the next six months.
The Iranian foreign minister's comments had little apparent
effect on U.S. senators who are preparing legislation to impose
new sanctions on Iran in six months if the deal reached in
Geneva goes nowhere.
Robert Menendez, the Democrat who chairs the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, and Republican Senator Mark Kirk are near
agreement on legislation that would target Iran's remaining oil
exports, foreign exchange reserves and strategic industries,
congressional aides said on Monday.
The legislation faces an uphill battle amid opposition from
the White House. It would seek to limit U.S. President Barack
Obama's ability to waive sanctions on Iran and also reimpose
sanctions if Tehran reneges on the Geneva agreement.
Zarif said Iran would not be pressured.
"We do not like to negotiate under duress," he told Time
Magazine. "If Congress adopts sanctions, it shows lack of
seriousness and lack of a desire to achieve a resolution on the
part of the United States.
"I know the domestic complications and various issues inside
the United States, but for me that is no justification. I have a
parliament. My parliament can also adopt various legislation
that can go into effect if negotiations fail," he added. "But if
we start doing that, I don't think that we will be getting
The White House last week said it opposes a fresh effort by
some senators to impose new sanctions against Iran, even if the
new restrictions would not take effect for months.
The State Department echoed that view, saying that U.S.
Secretary of State John Kerry planned to make the case during
testimony before Congress on Tuesday.
"We do feel that putting new sanctions in place during the
course of negotiations, even those that are delayed, would be
counterproductive, and could unravel the unity of the P5+1,"
said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, referring to the
six powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the
United States - that negotiated the deal with Iran.
"It could certainly put the negotiations that we have all
worked so hard on, that we believe is the best chance we've had
in a decade to achieve a peaceful outcome, at risk," she added.
The deal with Iran is designed to provide time to negotiate
a final agreement that the United States hopes would ensure
Iran's nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes and that
Tehran hopes will lead to the lifting of all economic sanctions.
(Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Alistair Bell,
Mohammad Zargham and Paul Simao)