OBAMA PRESSURED BY LAWMAKERS TO STAND GROUND AGAINST IRAN

Fox News on September 23, 2013, reported that on the heels of criticism over his handling of the stand-off with Syria, President Obama is facing pressure from Congress to stand his ground with Iran — in the run-up to the U.N. General Assembly session in New York where Hassan Rowhani will make his debut visit as Iran’s president. Excerpts below:

Rowhani has sent signals over the last few weeks that he’s willing to engage the U.S. in talks over his country’s nuclear program. Obama revealed in an interview a week ago that he and the newly elected Iranian leader have been exchanging letters.

The communication raised the possibility that Obama, or perhaps Secretary of State John Kerry, might meet on the sidelines of the U.N. session, and jump-start a new round of talks aimed at convincing Iran to abandon any pursuit of nuclear weapons and open up its program to inspectors.

Senators Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., though, urged Obama to tread cautiously.

“Like you, we viewed the election of Hassan Rouhani as an indicator of discontent amongst the Iranian people and we have taken note of recent diplomatic overtures by Iran,” they wrote. “However, whatever nice words we may hear from Mr. Rouhani, it is Iranian action that matters.”

They continued: “Iran is not a friend whose word can be taken as a promise. The test of Iranian seriousness must be verifiable action by Iran to terminate its nuclear weapons program.”

The senators specifically called on Obama to use his U.N. speech to reiterate the U.S. position that the country will not allow Iran to achieve nuclear weapons capability, and that the U.S. demands “verifiable action” from Iran in order to reach a “diplomatic accord.”

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., wrote Obama a similar letter, urging “that any diplomatic outreach to Iran reemphasize that the United States will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapons capability and that any relief from crippling economic sanctions on Iran will only be provided if Iran takes meaningful and verifiable actions to halt its nuclear activities.”

Iran’s support for Syria’s Bashar Assad has further complicated any attempt to re-start talks with the West over its nuclear program.

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