Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif warned that the Iranian nuclear deal would be dead if the U.S. Congress imposes new sanctions, even if they do not take effect for six months, Time Magazine said on Monday.
In a transcript of the interview, which was conducted on Saturday and posted online on Monday, Time said it asked Zarif what happens if Congress imposes new sanctions, even if they do not go into effect for six months.
According to the magazine, he replied: "The entire deal is dead." Zarif was referring to a Nov. 24 interim agreement with six world powers under which Tehran would curb its nuclear program in exchange for limited relief from economic sanctions over the next six months.
Zarif's comments had little effect on U.S. Senators who are preparing legislation to impose new sanctions on Iran in six months if the deal reached in Geneva goes nowhere.
The Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez, and Republican Senator Mark Kirk are close to agreeing on legislation that would target Iran's remaining oil exports, foreign exchange reserves and strategic industries, aides said on Monday.
The legislation faces an uphill battle amid opposition from the White House. It would seek to limit the ability of President Barack Obama's administration to waive sanctions on Iran and also reimpose sanctions if Tehran reneges on the Geneva agreement.
Zarif said Iran would not be pressured.
"We do not like to negotiate under duress," Zarif added. "If Congress adopts sanctions, it shows lack of seriousness and lack of a desire to achieve a resolution on the part of the United States.
"I know the domestic complications and various issues inside the United States, but for me that is no justification. I have a parliament. My parliament can also adopt various legislation that can go into effect if negotiations fail," he added. "But if we start doing that, I don't think that we will be getting anywhere."
The White House said last week that it opposes a fresh effort by some members of the U.S. Senate to impose new sanctions against Iran, even if the new restrictions would not take effect for months.
Some senators have been discussing the idea of imposing new sanctions on Iran that would kick in after six months or if Iran violated terms of the Geneva deal reached between Iran and the six major powers: Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.
That six-month interim deal is designed to give the two sides time to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that the United States hopes would provide reassurance that Iran's nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes and that Tehran hopes will lead to the lifting of all economic sanctions.