WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama warned Congress on Tuesday that any move to impose new sanctions on Iran could scupper delicate negotiations aimed at reaching a complex nuclear deal.
"New sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails ," Obama said in his State of the Union address to the Republican-controlled Congress.
And, as some lawmakers manoeuvre to try to draft a bill slapping new sanctions on Iran, Obama renewed his vow to veto any such legislation.
Talks between global powers and Iran to rein in its disputed nuclear programme resumed last weekend in Geneva, with a new deadline looming at the end of June.
Negotiators however have said they would like to see a framework deal in place sometime in March, after two previous deadlines for a historic accord were missed.
"Between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran," Obama told US lawmakers.
Such a deal would also secure "America and our allies - including Israel, while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict." The US president warned "there are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed" and vowed to "keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran."
But he warned new sanctions would "alienate" the United States from its allies and ensure that "Iran starts up its nuclear programme again." "It doesn't make sense. That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress," Obama said, referring to an interim accord under which Tehran has frozen its uranium enrichment in return for limited sanctions relief.
"The American people expect us to only go to war as a last resort, and I intend to stay true to that wisdom," he added.