DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — Iran's foreign minister Javad Zarif said Friday that a vote in U.S. Congress for more sanctions against his country will kill a likely nuclear deal with the West.
Speaking in an Associated Press debate at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Zarif warned that Iran's parliament will retaliate if U.S. lawmakers approve fresh sanctions.
"A sanctions bill by the U.S. Congress will kill the joint plan of action that we adopted last year in Geneva," he said. "Now the president of the United States has the power to veto it, but our parliament will have its counteraction."
The Iranian parliament will "retaliate," he added, by passing a bill to increase enrichment of uranium.
The United States and Iran hope that nuclear talks which include the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany can be accelerated in order to meet a March target for a framework agreement, and a final agreement by June 30.
The U.S. and its partners are hoping to turn an interim Geneva accord into a permanent deal with Iran that would set long-term limits on Iran's enrichment of uranium and other activity that could produce material for use in nuclear weapons.
Iran says its program is solely for energy production and medical research purposes, and it has agreed to some restrictions in exchange for billions of dollars in relief from U.S. economic sanctions.
Zarif said he believes such a comprehensive deal over his country's disputed nuclear program is almost at hand.
"We have nothing to lose by reaching an agreement and I believe we can have an agreement soon," he said. "I believe there is a possibility, a very good probability, of reaching an agreement, and we should not waste that opportunity."
As Zarif and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited the Swiss alpine resort Davos, their negotiating teams met in Zurich on Friday and Saturday to press for an agreement.
Zarif also disputed assertions by Germany's defense minister, Ursula von der Leyen, that sanctions were key in forcing Iran to the negotiating table.
"The reason our government is at the negotiating table is that we want to change our dynamics with the rest of the world," he said. "Sanctions did not bring our government to the negotiating table."