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John Kerry seeks Iran nuclear programme backing

Published 28/07/2015

Secretary of State John Kerry (pink tie) prepares to testify on Capitol Hill before the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the Iran nuclear agreement (AP)
Secretary of State John Kerry (pink tie) prepares to testify on Capitol Hill before the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the Iran nuclear agreement (AP)

US Secretary of State John Kerry has pitched the administration's controversial nuclear deal with Iran to a sceptical US House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Mr Kerry argued against the allegation it would ease crippling sanctions forever in exchange for temporary concessions on weapons development.

"Iran has cheated on every agreement they've signed," said Ed Royce, the panel's chairman.

With Mr Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew waiting to testify, Mr Royce asked if Tehran "has earned the right to be trusted", given its history.

Mr Kerry said that under the deal Iran is "permanently banned" from developing a nuclear weapon and many of the restrictions imposed would be in place "not just for 15 or 20 years, but for the lifetime" of its nuclear programme.

As a result, he said, the US will be able to "ensure" the nuclear programme remains peaceful.

The congressional hearing was the second in as many weeks for Mr Kerry and his Cabinet colleagues.

With Republicans in the majority in both houses, their objective was to line up enough support for President Barack Obama among Democrats in what is all but certain to become a veto fight this autumn.

Congress is expected to vote in September to prevent Mr Obama from lifting sanctions imposed previously by lawmakers, a step that would likely cause Iran to walk away from the agreement.

Mr Obama has said he will veto any bill along those lines and Republicans will need a two-thirds majority in both houses to override his objections.

Apart from Mr Royce, the panel's senior Democrat also expressed reservations about the plan. Eliot Engel said he has "serious questions and concerns about this deal".

Mr Engel is a strong supporter of Israel, which vociferously opposes the deal. Iran has previously said it wants to wipe out Israel.

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