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Opening round of Iran sanctions fight kicks off in Senate

(Agencies) Updated: 2015-01-20 14:49

WASHINGTON - US Congress and President Barack Obama are on a fast track toward confrontation over sanctions on Iran.

A bipartisan group of senators is pushing a new round of penalties despite the president's warning that they would scuttle delicate talks under way to prevent Tehran from being able to develop a nuclear weapon.

A Senate hearing this week on Iranian sanctions is the opening round of the new Republican-led Congress' first foreign policy fight with the White House. Obama came out swinging last Friday, telling Congress he would veto any Iran sanctions bill that lands on his desk.

Time is running out to reach a deal with Iran, which claims its nuclear program is peaceful and exists only to produce energy for civilian use.

US, Iran hopeful on speeding up nuclear talks

The United States and Iran are expressing hope that nuclear talks can be accelerated in order to meet a March target for a framework agreement, as the countries' top diplomats met Wednesday ahead of a resumption in full negotiations.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif were meeting at a Geneva hotel a day before negotiators from Iran, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany are to resume talks here.

Ahead of the meeting, Zarif said his talks with Kerry would show that both sides understand the importance of picking up the pace.

"I think it's important," he told reporters. "I think it will show the readiness of the two parties to move forward to speed up the process."

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