UNITED NATIONS: The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Tuesday rejected suggestions by a U.N. panel that Washington has kept silent about Iranian sanctions violations in order to avoid disrupting fragile negotiations on a nuclear deal with Tehran.
The U.N. Security Council's Panel of Experts on Iran said in April that it has received no new confirmed reports of Iranian violations despite several media reports of Iranian weapons shipments to Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and Hezbollah and Hamas militants in violation of a U.N. embargo.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power was asked during a congressional hearing in Washington whether the administration of President Barack Obama has deliberately withheld reports of Iranian violations from the U.N. panel, which monitors U.N. sanctions violations.
"Absolutely not," Power said. "And I myself am often involved in raising sanctions violations that Iran has carried out. We have also, even over the life of this last delicate phase of negotiations, instituted more sanctions designations under the existing bilateral sanctions framework."
"There's no pulling of our punches, even during these negotiations or ever," she said.
The panel said the lack of reports on Iranian violations could be because states were withholding them to avoid upsetting negotiations with Tehran.
The United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China have a self-imposed June 30 deadline to finish a long term nuclear deal with Iran under which it would curb sensitive nuclear activities for at least a decade in exchange for sanctions relief.
Officials close to the talks say they will likely run into early July.
Power was also asked in Washington about Iranian officials' repeated public statements that there will be limits on access by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors whose job it would be monitor compliance with any future deal.
She acknowledged there was "a lot of rhetoric" from Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani and others.
"President Obama will not accept a deal in which we do not get the access that we need in order to verify compliance," Power said.
Iranian officials have suggested that military sites and Iranian scientists will be off limits to IAEA inspectors under any future deal.
Tehran rejects allegations from Western powers and their allies that it is seeking the capability to produce nuclear weapons.
Sticking points in the negotiations between Iran and the six powers include the speed of sanctions easing, monitoring and verification and other issues.