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John Kerry condemns Republican letter to Iran

The US top diplomat strongly condemned a letter from Republican lawmakers to the Iranian government. He said that Congress won't be able to change an Iran deal.

US Secretary of State John Kerry lashed out on Wednesday against a letter written by Republican Senators to the government of Iran for "undermining" international trust in America. Speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations committee, Kerry said that US lawmakers would not be able to change the terms of any nuclear agreement with Iran because it would not be legally binding.

"This risks undermining the confidence that foreign governments in thousands of important agreements commit to," said Kerry, the chief US delegate in the talks with Tehran over its nuclear program, "It purports to tell the world that if you want to have any confidence in your dealings with America they have to negotiate with 535 members of Congress."

Kerry said he felt "utter disbelief" at the letter, written by Senator Tom Cotton and signed by 47 Republican senators, which warns the Iranian government that any accord with the Obama administration could expire the day he leaves office.

Republican claims "flat wrong"

The Secretary of State said that not only was this claim legally incorrect, it flew in the face of "more than two centuries of precedent in the conduct of American foreign policy."

While formal treaties require two-thirds ratification from the Senate, "the vast majority of international arrangements and agreements do not." He reminded the lawmakers that "we are not negotiating a, quote, legally binding plan. We're negotiating a plan that will have in it the capacity for enforcement. We don't even have diplomatic relations with Iran right now."

No side has emphasized the need for a legally binding agreement because each side has other forms of leverage. The White House could re-impose suspended sanctions should Iran violate a deal. If the US didn't live up to its side of the bargain, the Islamic Republic could ramp up enrichment levels of uranium.

The Obama administration and Democrats have been highly critical of Cotton's letter, signed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and several Republican presidential hopefuls. The letter says "the next president could revoke such an agreement…and future Congresses could modify the terms of an agreement at any time."

The US top diplomat called these claims "flat wrong," adding that Congress does not have the right to "modify an agreement reached executive to executive between leaders."

Kerry is due to meet his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, next week in Switzerland for the next round of negotiations.

es/rc (AP, AFP)

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