Iranian state television on Monday announced that Tehran had reached a deal with United Nations negotiators to expand inspection of the country’s nuclear facilities, according to reports.
The side deal comes as U.S.-led efforts to broker a broader deal on Iran’s nuclear program deadlocked in Geneva, Switzerland, over the weekend after divisions within the P5+1 international group and amid growing congressional opposition.
The Iran-UN deal would give International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors access to more nuclear sites, including a uranium mine and a heavy water reactor under construction.
Iran insists its nuclear weapons program is for peaceful energy purposes, but world powers fear Tehran is building weapons and have instituted sanctions which have dealt a crippling blow to the country’s economy.
The P5+1 group, which includes the U.S., United Kingdom, France, Germany, China and Russia, will continue their talks to secure a deal with Iran. Last week, the White House said the framework for those talks would involve Iran freezing some aspects of its nuclear program in exchange for a “limited” easing of some sanctions.
But those talks failed to reach an accord over the weekend after France questioned if the terms were tough enough to prevent Iran from advancing its nuclear agenda.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also blasted the blueprint publicly, saying Sunday that Iran was giving away “practically nothing and it gets a hell of a lot.”
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers have also expressed skepticism, urging the administration not to ease any sanction short of concrete steps from Iran to abandon developing nuclear weapons.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said the White House needed to get more assurances that Iran was committed to freezing its nuclear program before lifting any sanctions.
His colleague, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., vowed on Sunday to push for additional sanctions to further pressure Tehran.
The administration though has strongly defended their diplomatic efforts and is urging lawmakers to not press further sanctions to allow talks to proceed. The White House acknowledges that tough sanctions have brought Iran to the table, but believe a deal can now be crafted.
“No deal is better than a bad deal, and we are certainly adhering to that concept,” Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday, vowing that the U.S. would not rush into an agreement with Iran.
After negotiations in Geneva, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif told reporters both sides were close to an agreement and would resume talks during the next round of meetings, slated for Nov. 20.
White House correspondent Brian Hughes contributed to this report.