U.S. State Department supports pause in levying new Iranian sanctions

A small pause in new sanctions being imposed by Congress against Iran could strengthen the negotiating process over Iran's nuclear program, the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday.

Marie Harf, the deputy spokesperson for the State Department, made the remarks on Wednesday during a foreign policy update to the press. Harf said the U.S. has an obligation to test the diplomatic opening presented in the Iranian nuclear crisis by Iran's new president and negotiating team. Harf said the pause in new sanctions could allow for more progress on a diplomatic solution with Iran.

"We believe that a pause - a small pause - in new sanctions being imposed by Congress is in the best interests of the negotiating process, that we believe that we need some time and space to test this diplomatic opening and to see where this path may lead," Harf said. "As we know, the reason we're back at the table today is because of - is exactly because of the incredibly harsh sanctions we have in place. But right now we think it's in the best interest of the negotiating process to take a step back and take a small pause to see where this could go."

Harf said Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew would brief the Senate Banking Committee on Iran in a closed session on Thursday. She said the conversation about a pause in the sanctions is ongoing.