"What we want to do is give diplomacy a chance, and give peace a chance," Obama told reporters.
Iran over the weekend finalized an agreement with the U.S. and other world powers that would provide limited sanctions relief in exchange for freezing some elements of Tehran’s nuclear program. The deal gives both sides six months to cement a long-term deal.
But lawmakers are pushing for a new round of sanctions to raise pressure on Iran to abandon its nuclear program.
Obama said the agreement over the weekend gave Iran and the U.S. “time and space” to reach a more lasting accord, but cautioned that another sanctions bill could wreck the fragile deal.
"It's going to be difficult, it's going to be challenging, but ultimately this is how diplomacy should work," Obama said.
He added that the Iranian people would benefit if their leaders are “willing to walk through the door of opportunity that's presented to them.”
The president has said he is committed to preventing a nuclear armed Iran and that if the initial deal fails to stop Tehran, he will back tougher sanctions.
"If they fail to walk through this door of opportunity, then we are in position to reverse the interim agreement and put in place additional pressure to make sure that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon," said Obama.
A bill from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., would give the administration a year to negotiate a deal before additional sanctions kick in. The bill has 59 co-sponsors and Senate aides told the Washington Examiner that the measure is nearing a veto-proof majority of support.
"My preference is for peace and diplomacy, and this is one of the reasons why I've sent the message to Congress that now is not the time for us to impose new sanctions, now is the time for us to allow the diplomats and technical experts to do their work," said Obama on Monday.