By Ted Barrett and Elise Labott
Secretary of State John Kerry will head to Capitol Hill this week to testify on negotiations to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions as some members of Congress push harder for new sanctions with the latest round of talks failing to produce an agreement.
Kerry will meet with members of the Senate Banking Committee, a committee aide said. The session on Wednesday will be closed, a senior State Department official said.
Western sanctions have hit Iran's economy, slashing crude oil exports and triggering inflation. Some of the restrictions originated in the Banking Committee.
Senators from both parties have pushed for tougher sanctions to increase pressure on Iran even as the Geneva talks showed promise at last week. They broke up on Sunday with no deal, but negotiators plan to resume talks later this month.
"We were very, very close, actually, extremely close. I think we were separated by four or five different formulations of a particular concept. But none so terribly that I don't think it's possible to reach be able to reach agreement," Kerry told the BBC in an interview, according to a State Department transcript on Monday.
The United States and other world powers believe Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb and want a deal that scales back uranium enrichment. Iran says its nuclear intentions are peaceful and wants sanctions relaxed.
Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson of South Dakota won't decide until after Kerry's testimony whether to move forward with a proposal for additional sanctions, the committee aide said.
"Chairman Johnson will not make a decision on additional sanctions until he has had a chance to consult with his colleagues following the briefing," the aide said in an e-mail.
But Sen. Lindsey Graham told CNN's "State of the Union" program on Sunday that he would not wait for the next round of negotiations.
A member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Graham said he intends to propose a measure that would mandate more sanctions, aimed at forcing Iran to dismantle its nuclear program – a move that runs counter to interim steps sought by negotiators in Geneva.
Kerry also said on Monday that negotiations with Iran involving the United States, Germany, France, Britain, Russia, and China should not be rushed.
"This is not a race to complete just any agreement. No deal is better than a bad deal, I have said many times, as has said President Obama. But through diplomacy we have an absolute responsibility to pursue and agreement," Kerry told reporters in Abu Dhabi.