U.S. Congress.
U.S. Congress. Photo by Reuters
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A group of U.S. senators moved Thursday to slap fresh sanctions on Iran should it fail to cooperate with talks on its nuclear program, in a move the White House warned could derail diplomatic progress with Tehran.

U.S. President Barack Obama would veto the sanctions should they pass Congress, spokesman Jay Carney said.

The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act, introduced by prominent senators from both sides of the aisle and backed by a quarter of the upper chamber of Congress, would institute sanctions if Iran violates the interim agreement reached last month in Geneva or if a final agreement is not reached.

It would put new restrictions on Iranian petroleum purchases and institute new penalties on the Iranian economy, including the engineering, mining and construction sectors.

"The burden rests with Iran to negotiate in good faith and verifiably terminate its nuclear weapons program. Prospective sanctions will influence Iran's calculus and accelerate that process toward achieving a meaningful diplomatic resolution," said Senator Robert Menendez, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Obama has been urging Congress for weeks to hold off on fresh sanctions to give talks between Iran and world powers a chance to succeed.

"It is our view that it is very important to refrain from taking an action that would potentially disrupt the opportunity here for a diplomatic resolution of this challenge," Carney said.

"And so we don't want to see actions that would proactively undermine American diplomacy, which is what we fear that actions like passing new sanctions, no matter how they're structured, would be received, both by our international partners and obviously by Iran."