The head of the U.S. Bishops' international peace committee supports the new framework for Iran's nuclear program and is asking the U.S. Congress not to “undermine” the deal. “We welcome the most recent step the United States and its international partners have taken with Iran and encourage our nation to continue down this path,” said Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces. N.M. Bishop Cantu spoke out on the framework outlined in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action reached April 2. The plan is a product of negotiations between the Islamic Republic of Iran, the European Union, and the P5 1 countries — the U.S., United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China. It provides the framework for a final agreement to be reached June 30. The framework's goal is preventing the “unacceptable” outcome of Iran developing nuclear weapons, Bishop Cantu said. The plan reduces the number of Iran's centrifuges by two-thirds, down to just over 6,000. It limits the level of uranium that may be enriched and the amount of low-enriched uranium stockpiled. No new uranium enrichment facilities may be constructed for 15 years. The underground nuclear facility at Fordow must be turned into a research facility, and cannot research uranium enrichment there for 15 years. Nuclear-related sanctions on Iran will be lifted if the country abides by the framework, but sanctions related to “terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missiles” will remain. Bishop Cantu warned Congress not to get in the way of a final agreement, the “alternative” to which “leads toward armed conflict.” “(O)ur Committee continues to oppose Congressional efforts that seek to undermine the negotiation process or make a responsible multi-party agreement more difficult to achieve and implement. The alternative to an agreement leads toward armed conflict, an outcome of profound concern to the Church,” he said. His warning comes as the Senate is set to debate a bipartisan bill allowing Congressional review of a final agreement with Iran. The Corker-Menendez bill, S. 615, currently sits in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It has 21 co-sponsors in the Senate including seven Democrats. Iran's hostility to its neighbors in the Middle East is all the more reason for the international agreement on its nuclear program, Bishop Cantu insisted. “As we have noted in the past, Iran’s statements and actions have threatened its neighbors, especially Israel, and contributed to instability in the region,” he said. “We hope the agreement is a first step in fostering greater stability and dialogue in the Middle East.” Pope Francis praised the plan in his “Urbi et Orbi” blessing on Easter Sunday, saying that “in hope we entrust to the merciful Lord the framework recently agreed to in Lausanne, that it may be a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world.”
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