Manufacturing Consent For Attack On
US Lawmakers Vow Tough Action on Iran


September 11, 2009 -- WASHINGTON (
AFP) - Top US lawmakers vowed tough action on Iran Thursday as tensions mounted ahead of a late September deadline for negotiations and amid speculation Israel may launch a preemptive strike.

"The clock is ticking and in fact, it has almost run out," Democratic Representative Howard Berman told Jewish leaders in comments intended to allay concerns that President Barack Obama's administration is not doing enough to tame Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

Eric Cantor, the sole Jewish Republican in the House of Representatives, said he was "very anxious to see a demonstrated effort on the part of this administration and Congress to do all we can to coalesce with our allies to put as much pressure as possible on the terrorist regime in Iran."

World powers have given Tehran a late September deadline to begin negotiations with them concerning the atomic program or face more sanctions. Tehran is already under three sets of UN sanctions.

If Iran fails to meet the deadline, Berman, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he would mark up bipartisan legislation next month that places additional sanctions on the Islamic republic.

"The nuclear threat from Iran already exists. And it is one that we literally cannot live with," warned Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the top Republican on Berman's panel.

Her comments came as Washington Thursday dismissed a new proposal from Iran about its nuclear program as "not really responsive" to its concerns.

Israel, largely considered to be the Middle East's sole albeit undeclared nuclear power, and Western governments suspect Iran is seeking to develop an atomic bomb under the guise of a civilian nuclear program, a charge Tehran denies.

The Jewish state has not ruled out launching a preemptive strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, despite strong US concerns over such an outcome.

Ros-Lehtinen has co-sponsored the draft bill, which bars any foreign entity that sells refined petroleum to Iran or helps the country expand its refining capacity from doing business in the United States.

Charging that Obama's promises of direct negotiations with Tehran have "emboldened the regime to increase its efforts," the Florida lawmaker called for a "change of course" and expressed hope the bill would become law in time for the 30th anniversary of the 1979-81 Iran hostage crisis.


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