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As Sanctions Unravel, France Re-Affirms Red Lines while Congress Moves to Assert Oversight Role

Reuters on Tuesday conveyed new statements from French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius declaring that Iran must only be allowed to maintain a few hundred centrifuges in the context of any comprehensive deal between Tehran and the P5+1 global powers, amid moves by the Iranians to hold bilateral negotiations with various other P5+1 powers.

Those efforts – which now have Iran holding separate talks with the U.S., Russia, France, and Germany – had quickly triggered concerns that the Islamic republic was seeking to peel away relatively tough parties from what had been, at least publicly, a somewhat united front.

The Tuesday Reuters article noted that “Paris has long held out for strict terms in the negotiations”:

“We are still hitting a wall on one absolutely fundamental point which is the number of centrifuges which allow enrichment,” Fabius told France Inter radio.

“We say that there can be a few hundred centrifuges, but the Iranians want thousands so we’re not in the same framework,” he said. It was not immediately clear whether he was spelling out the French position, or that of the six powers.

The developments come amid renewed moves by Congress to establish a voice in guiding U.S. negotiations with Iran, and as evidence continues to pile up that the administration may have lost control over the eroding sanctions regime that international negotiators are counting on to extract Iranian concessions.

The Hill reported Wednesday on the sanctions issues facing lawmakers on Capitol Hill:

Critics in both parties argue the interim deal with Iran will allow that country’s nuclear program to move forward. They have said the threat of additional sanctions are necessary to put pressure on Iran to agree to a final deal. A six-month extension could serve to simply buy more time for Iran to delay, they say.

Legislation that would lock in future sanctions on Iran should negotiations fail, the idea being to signal to the Iranians that intransigent behavior is certain to come with economic costs, recently gained its 60th co-sponsor in the Senate.

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