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Despite Obama request,  Kirk keeping up pressure

Updated: December 10, 2013 6:15AM



WASHINGTON — As the U.S. was starting a diplomatic push in Geneva to box in Iran’s nuclear program, President Barack Obama phoned Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., to ask him not to pursue tougher sanctions in Congress.

Obama called Kirk on Tuesday. “He wanted me to hold off on sanctions,” Kirk told me.

I asked Kirk what he said to Obama in reply.

“I said it is 1938 and this is rope-a-dope by the Iranians to delay things until they get what they want, which is nuclear weapons,” Kirk said.

However, notwithstanding Obama’s personal appeal, Kirk on Friday vowed to continue to intensify pressure on Iran.

“Based on the latest information available and after discussions with our allies, it is clear to me that the proposal on the table in Geneva would do nothing to prevent a future with Iranian nuclear weapons,” Kirk said in a statement.

“The agreement would leave Iran’s nuclear infrastructure in place while undermining the sanctions pressure we worked so hard to build. In short, it will increase the likelihood of war when we should be doing all we can to achieve a peaceful outcome. I will continue to press for intensified sanctions until I am assured we are not leaving our children a world with Iranian nuclear weapons,” Kirk said.

Kirk took advantage of having Obama on the phone to take care of some Illinois business.

“Once you get POTUS on the horn, you go through your asks,” Kirk said, using the acronym for president of the United States.

Kirk has been pushing to reduce gang violence in Chicago in the wake of murders in the city, including near Obama’s Kenwood home. He said he asked Obama about getting the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to appoint a Chicago based anti-gang coordinator and other federal resources.

Kirk said he told Obama, “We have an opportunity to totally transform your neighborhood by the end of your presidency. So let’s do it and flood the zone.”

On Iran, Kirk, however, heard nothing from Obama during that call that changed his determination to press for tightening economic pressure on Iran — even as diplomatic alternatives are being negotiated.

Kirk has been leading a drive all year against loosening sanctions against Iran, stepping up his calls in recent weeks in advance of the talks that started Thursday in Switzerland between Iran and the world powers known as the “P5+1,” the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.

Kirk last month wrote an op-ed in the British newspaper, the Telegraph warning “it is vital that both the British and the American governments remain clear-eyed about the nature of that regime and its nuclear ambitions.”

On Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry was in Geneva crafting the outlines of a potential Iran nuclear deal. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday “any critique of the deal is premature” as Israel was already raising objections.

Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and according to a White House statement, “underscored his strong commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, which is the aim of the ongoing negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran. The president and prime minister agreed to continue to stay in touch on this issue.”

Email: lsweet@suntimes.com

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