On the eve of the deadline for a framework nuclear agreement with Iran, President Barack Obama invoked President John F. Kennedy's words about negotiation.
Speaking at the dedication of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Boston, the president said Secretary of State John Kerry, a former Massachusetts senator, had wanted to be at the event.
“As many of you know, John is in Europe with our allies and partners leading the negotiations with Iran and the world community and standing up for the principle that Ted and his brother, President Kennedy, believed in so strongly,” Obama said.
“Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate,” Obama continued, quoting Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address.
With the March 31 deadline to reach a framework nuclear deal hours away, the United States, Britain, France, China Russia and Germany have been meeting with Iran in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Israel and many U.S. lawmakers from both parties are heavily opposed to making any deal with Iran that would allow the country to continue to enrich uranium for what Iran says is for peaceful purposes. The Obama administration has repeatedly said any deal would involve rigorous inspections. Saudi Arabia has also gone on the record expressing concerns about a deal.
The talks were already extended once from a November deadline. The White House has declined to speculate on what would happen if a deal is not reached on March 31.
“I’m not going to presuppose failure,” White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz told reporters aboard Air Force One Monday. “These negotiations are going down to the wire.”
Schultz also denied a New York Times story that said Iran was backing away from a nuclear deal.
“The idea that there had been an agreement that Iran had backed away from in the last 24 hours is not true. In terms of what’s going to happen with that stockpile, that is something our negotiators are working through, but it’s not accurate to say there had been an agreement that was then backtracked,” Schultz said. “As we’ve said all along, nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to. I don’t want to get ahead of what our negotiators are working on in the room. Beyond that I don’t have much to say.”
He further repeated the White House’s previous intentions to veto expanded sanctions on Iran or allowing Congress reverse a deal, though he did say the administration believes "there is a role” for Congress, but was unclear what oversight role Congress would have.
“We want a robust, consultative role, and I believe we’ve put our money where our mouth is,” Schultz said.