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WASHINGTON – The Obama administration, in the wake of a promising first round of nuclear diplomacy with Iran, is weighing a plan to ease sanctions on Tehran by offering it access to billions of dollars in frozen funds, a senior administration official said Thursday.
Under the proposal, the United States could free up Iran’s frozen overseas assets in installments, as a reward for taking specific steps to curb its nuclear program.
The advantage of such a plan, the official said, is that it would avoid the political and diplomatic risks of repealing sanctions agreed to by a diverse coalition of countries. That would give President Obama the flexibility to respond to Iranian offers that emerge from the negotiations without unraveling the global sanctions regime that the administration has spent years cobbling together.
A senior administration official compared the plan, which has not yet been approved, to opening and closing a financial spigot.
While the two days of talks in Geneva this week did not produce a breakthrough, Iranian officials were more candid and substantive than in previous diplomatic encounters, officials said, particularly in direct negotiations between Iranian diplomats and the senior U.S. representative, Wendy Sherman.
Now, though, the administration faces a complex calculation on the future of the sanctions, which have been crucial in bringing the Iranians back to the bargaining table. Administration officials said they would urge the Senate to hold off on voting on a new bill to strangle Iran’s oil exports further until after the next round of talks Nov. 7.
New York Times