WASHINGTON (AFP-EJP)---US lawmakers on Thursday adopted a sharply worded resolution warning about the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran and urging President Barack Obama to increase diplomatic and political pressure against Tehran.
The resolution, which passed by 401 votes in favor and 11 against, warned that "time is limited" to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability and called for "continued and increasing economic and diplomatic pressure" to prevent that from occurring.
It also rejected "any policy that would rely on efforts to contain a nuclear weapons-capable Iran."
In addition to the full suspension of all uranium-enrichment and reprocessing activities, the measure called for Iran's complete cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog.
It also pressed for a permanent agreement that "verifiably assures that Iran's nuclear program is entirely peaceful" and declared that preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons is a "vital national interest of the United States."
"We must compel the regime to permanently and verifiably dismantle its nuclear program, abandon its unconventional and ballistic missile development programs, and end its support for violent extremists," said Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from Florida who also heads the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
The measure was backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Jewish lobby group, which wields substantial political clout with US lawmakers.
Another group, the National Iranian American Council urged a "no" vote, saying it "significantly lowers the threshold for war with Iran."
The United States, Israel and much of the international community believes that Iran's nuclear program masks a weapons drive, a charge denied by Tehran which says its nuclear program is for peaceful civilian energy and medical use.
Washington has pursued a policy of pushing tough sanctions against Iran, while leaving the door open to a diplomatic resolution.
Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate. It is expected to be taken up "soon," a source told AFP.
Thursday's vote comes ahead of talks between Iran and the so-called P5+1 group -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- in Baghdad on May 23.
Earlier on Thursday, US Senate Republicans vetoed new sanctions on Iran’s oil industry, in a surprise move ahead of the nuclear talks with Tehran.
The Republicans made the decision on Thursday to the dismay of Senate Democrats who had expected full support across party lines in light of fast-approaching crunch talks with Iran.
The new sanctions are designed to target Iran’s powerful oil industry, a big source of revenue for the country, in a follow-up to Barack Obama’s December sanctions which blocked trading with Iran’s Central Bank.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has denied the decision to veto the bill had political motives and claims the move was a play for time in order to finesse certain differences between the parties.
“We certainly don’t want to take a step backward, and there are members on my side of the aisle who are concerned that the way the measure is currently crafted could actually be a step in the wrong direction”, he said.
Republican objections to the bill in its current form are thought to centre around their desire to include a stronger statement that use of US military force is an option should talks fail to achieve results.