President Obama sought Tuesday to stop senators from considering a new round of sanctions against Iran as high-stakes diplomatic talks are expected to get underway again later this week.
Obama met for two hours at the White House with the leaders of the Senate's national security and banking committees. Secretary of State John F. Kerry and White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice also attended the meeting.
The talk came one day before diplomats are scheduled to begin meeting again in Geneva over the future of Iran's nuclear program. Recent findings by United Nations officials suggest the country has dramatically slowed work on its atomic energy program since the summer, developments that could add momentum to the talks.
The White House meeting came as senators admitted that consideration of any new sanctions likely won't happen until after a two-week Thanksgiving recess ends in early December.
After the meeting, a group of senior senators released a letter voicing support for the continued talks, but urging the administration to reconsider its diplomatic strategy.
The senators said that the current negotiations would require the U.S. "to make significant concessions before we see Iran demonstrably commit to moving away from developing a nuclear weapons capability."
"If we are reducing sanctions, Iran should be reducing its nuclear capabilities," the senators wrote.
The letter was co-signed by Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Robert Casey (D-Pa.).
Schumer, Menendez and McCain attended the meeting with Obama.
White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that Obama "made clear that achieving a peaceful resolution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is profoundly in America’s national security interests."
Carney said that Obama made clear that any easing of Iranian sanctions agreed to as part of the talks would be “limited, temporary and reversible” and emphasized that “we would continue to enforce sanctions during the six-month period.”
“There was obviously a diversity of opinion represented in the room," Carney said.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), one of the lawmakers pushing most vociferously for new sanctions, said the meeting "solely focused on Iran." Corker, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters that Obama, Kerry and Rice "were very explicit about what they think they may be able to negotiate" when talks resume with Iran this week.
"There is a much greater understanding of what is on the table," Corker said.