WASHINGTON — The top US senator on Thursday branded Iran a “festering sore in the world” as he vowed to move quickly on a package of tough US economic sanctions to punish Tehran’s nuclear defiance.
“In my opinion, we have waited long enough for the diplomacy to work. Iran is a festering sore in the world,” Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters in unusually tough language.
Reid’s comments came as the US Congress took a key step towards imposing new sanctions targeting Iran’s imports of gasoline and other refined petroleum products to force the Islamic republic to halt its suspect nuclear program.
The House of Representatives voted 403-11 to appoint “conferees” to huddle with their Senate counterparts and meld the two chambers’ rival versions of sanctions legislation into one compromise bill for passage within weeks.
“As they get it out, I will move everything within my power to move it to the floor. The Middle East is unstable. This will help stabilize it,” Reid said after the vote, which urges the lawmakers complete their work by May 28.
Because of a lack of domestic refining capacity, oil-rich Iran is dependent on gasoline imports to meet about 40 percent of domestic consumption.
The House overwhelmingly passed its version of the bill in December, followed by the Senate in January, but the two bills diverge on several critical points and face some resistance from the US State Department.