WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama said on Friday a bill allowing Congress to review a deal concerning Iran’s nuclear program was a “reasonable compromise” he planned to sign, and he expressed confidence it would not derail talks with Tehran.
Obama told a White House news conference that Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Bob Corker and the panel’s leading Democrat, Ben Cardin, had agreed they would protect the bill from “poison pills” amendments that would be tilted toward trying to kill an agreement with Iran.
Since the White House said on Tuesday that Obama would sign the bill, it has sought to reassure anxious negotiating partners. Talks are aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from sanctions.
“The final product that emerged out of the Corker-Cardin negotiations, we believe, will not derail the negotiations,” Obama said. “Assuming that what lands on my desk is what Senators Corker and Cardin agreed to, I will sign it.”
After initially opposing congressional intervention, Obama conceded that lawmakers would have the power to review an agreement with Iran after Republicans and Democrats crafted a rare compromise measure. The White House had been concerned that the bill would undermine efforts to reach a final pact with Iran by the end of June. A framework deal was reached on April 2.
Iran and the United States differ on how fast sanctions would be lifted if they reached an agreement. Iran wants immediate relief and the White House insists sanctions must be gradually lifted.
Obama played down the differences, saying, “Our main concern here is making sure that if Iran doesn’t abide by its agreement, that we don’t have to jump through a whole bunch of hoops in order to reinstate sanctions.”
Regarding Russian plans to deliver missile-defense systems to Iran, which it had put on hold after a request from the United States, Obama said, “I’m not surprised, given some of the deterioration in the relationship between Russia and the United States, and the fact that their economy is under strain and this was a substantial sale.”
Additional reporting Julia Edwards and Susan Heavey; Editing by Toni Reinhold