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Senators delay committee vote on bill with Iran

Their decision will give international negotiators space to meet an upcoming late-March deadline to reach an agreement.

Senate Democrats and Republicans have agreed to delay the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's vote on legislation that would force President Barack Obama to submit any nuclear agreement with Iran for Congress' approval. Their decision will give international negotiators time to meet an upcoming late-March deadline to settle on a plan.

Despite Republicans warning the leaders of Iran that a future administration could reverse any potential deal reached between the United States and the Middle Eastern nation, Obama seems optimistic about exploring a different relationship with the country.

He said Thursday that nuclear talks between Iran and Western powers had made progress but that gaps remained. "This moment may not come again soon," Obama said in his message celebrating Nowruz, the Iranian New Year. "I believe that our nations have an historic opportunity to resolve this issue peacefully — an opportunity we should not miss."

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Iran and six world powers are seeking a comprehensive agreement to curb Iran's most sensitive nuclear activities for at least 10 years in exchange for a gradual end to sanctions against Tehran. The powers aim to complete the framework of a final deal by the end of March and reach a full agreement by June 30.

Forty-seven GOP senators last week signed an open letter to the leaders of Iran, warning that Republicans are prepared to undercut any nuclear agreement reached under Obama’s direction. For months, the two countries have been involved in tense negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week won reelection for a fourth term. It remains to be seen how his victory will impact his relationship with Obama. The two leaders have had rocky ties for years.

In a message to Iran's people and leaders, Obama said this year represented the "best opportunity in decades" to pursue a different relationship between their two countries.

Obama said in his message that "the days and weeks ahead will be critical. Our negotiations have made progress, but gaps remain. And there are people, in both our countries and beyond, who oppose a diplomatic resolution."

"My message to you — the people of Iran — is that, together, we have to speak up for the future we seek," he said, adding: "This year, we have the best opportunity in decades to pursue a different future between our countries."

Reuters contributed to this report.