EU, Iran reach agreement on implementing nuclear deal

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Diplomats from Iran and the European Union said Friday that they were able to reach agreement on implementing the Iran nuclear accord. Pending review by capitals of six world powers, an announcement on a start date for the accord to go into force could come as soon as the weekend.

Negotiators “made very good progress on all the pertinent issues,” Michael Mann, a spokesman for the EU, said Friday. “This is now under validation at political level in capitals.”

The announcement came after two days of talks in Geneva between European Union deputy foreign policy chief Helga Schmid and Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi.  Lead US negotiator, Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, accompanied by her non-proliferation advisor James Timbie and Treasury Department’s Adam Szubin, also held bilateral meetings in Geneva Thursday with Araghchi’s team as well as met with Schmid, the State Department said.

“A final decision is to be made in capitals and a result to be announced within the next two days, ” Araghchi told Iranian media Friday.

The progress in Geneva came as Iran sanctions legislation opposed by the White House had by Friday attracted a total of 59 Senate co-sponsors, not yet the 67 needed to override a presidential veto.

But notably, the bill has gotten mostly GOP support, attracting only two Democrats and 25 Republicans as co-sponsors since it was first introduced last month by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Illinois).

To date, only 16 of the Senate’s 55 Democrats have signed on as co-sponsors to the bill, despite reportedly intense pressure from the pro-Israel lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. By contrast, 43 of the Senate’s 45 Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors.  (The two Senate Republicans who have not co-sponsored the bill are Jeff Flake of Arizona and Rand Paul of Kentucky.)

The fact that over two-third of his Democratic caucus has as yet not signed on is thought to give Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) wide discretion to decide when and if to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

The White House said again Friday that the bill would harm negotiations with Iran and thinks it should not pass. Obama would veto it if it does.

“I think that we remain hopeful that Congress will not pass such a sanctions bill because of the negative effect that would have on the ongoing negotiations and the potential to resolve this peacefully,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “But I’m not going to make legislative predictions.”

Ten leading Senate Democratic committee chairs wrote Reid last month saying now is not the time for new Iran sanctions. All ten of them, including California’s two Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the intelligence committee, Michigan’s Carl Levin, chair of the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, chair of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Tim Johnson, chair of the Banking Committee, and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, are among the 39 Democratic Senators who have not co-sponsored the bill.

(Photo: In this Oct. 28, 2013 file photo Iran’s deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, right, shakes hands with Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA. By Hans Punz, File/AP.)