President Barack Obama asked key senators Tuesday for a delay in imposing new sanctions on Iran, but apparently failed to win over hardened skeptics of a proposed interim nuclear deal with Tehran.
Obama met the lawmakers at the White House on the eve of the next round of nuclear talks between the P5+1 powers and Iran in Geneva, and as some senators mull increasing sanctions on the Islamic Republic -- a move opposed by the administration.
Senator Bob Corker, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, emerged from the talks after nearly two hours and said there were still concerns a US plan to offer Iran some sanctions relief in return for freezing some aspects of its nuclear program ceded too much leverage.
"We had some folks in the room that were satisfied, I think we had some folks in the room that were very unsatisfied," Corker told reporters.
The Tennessee lawmaker said he would go back to Capitol Hill and think about what the president told him before making his own decision on whether to support new sanctions.
Obama has asked senators for a "pause" in sanctions to allow negotiating teams in Geneva to continue their work.
The powers taking part in the talks there include Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, as well as Germany.
The White House believes a "modest" and reversible set of measures to ease Iran's economic pain is needed as a show of faith that Washington is serious about a final deal and also to shield Iranian negotiators from pressure from hardliners in Iran.
But officials insist that the core architecture of the sanctions regime will remain in place until a final deal is concluded to ensure that Iran is unable to build a nuclear bomb.
Corker said talks between Obama and the Democratic leaders and top Republicans of the Senate Banking, Intelligence, Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees had offered the most clear indications yet of the interim deal the administration is proposing.
"He (Obama) asked for a period of time," Corker said, adding that Senate procedure meant there would be no votes on toughening sanctions on Iran in the Senate until after the US Thanksgiving holiday at the end of next week.
There was no immediate comment on the talks from the White House.
Corker, however, said it was not yet a "fait accompli" that an interim deal would be concluded in Geneva in the next round of talks.