If Iran and world powers reach a nuclear deal, the United Nations Security Council will likely delay for at least a month action to lift U.N. nuclear sanctions on Tehran so U.S. Congress can review the agreement, officials said.
Western officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was an unwelcome development but politically necessary since Congress, dominated by Republicans critical of President Barack Obama’s engagement with Iran, does not want the 15-member council to speak first.
They said Congress would see that as prejudging any deal granting Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbing sensitive nuclear activities for at least a decade.
Iran appears to be reluctantly accepting the delay.
“It seems there is no other choice,” a senior Iranian official said on condition of anonymity. “Are we happy about it? Of course not.”
Iran had wanted all U.S., U.N. and European Union sanctions lifted immediately once a deal was signed.
Western officials have said they would need confirmation of Iranian compliance with a deal before easing sanctions, though delaying U.N. action for congressional review is a new element.
There is a June 30 deadline for an agreement between Iran, the United States and five other major powers. Western officials expect the talks to run into July.
Obama signed into law last month a measure giving Congress 30 days to review a deal before Obama could suspend U.S. congressional sanctions, provided legislators receive the deal by July 8. After that, the review period would be 60 days.
The Security Council does not need congressional approval, but pre-empting Congress would be politically unwise, Western officials said. Still, they say a 60-day delay would be excessive.
“We can’t wait too long because the Iranians could start going back on what they agreed,” a senior Western official said.
A U.N. vote would involve a Security Council resolution endorsing a deal and nullifying all previous sanctions resolutions, while keeping an arms embargo and other restrictions.
Only the Security Council can lift U.N. sanctions.
Securing congressional approval of al deal will not be easy. A key U.S. senator told Obama on Monday he was alarmed by reports of concessions by negotiators.
Iran and the six agreed on parameters of a future deal in April.
Issues to be settled in the coming weeks include the speed of lifting sanctions and ways of monitoring compliance. Officials say there is no guarantee they will get an agreement.