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US top diplomat asks for 'flexibility' as Congress passes new Russia sanctions

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-06-15 10:48

WASHINGTON - US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday called on lawmakers to grant "flexibility" to the White House in dealing with Russia as US Senate overwhelmingly passed new Russia sanction bill.

"I would urge Congress to ensure any legislation that allows the president to have the flexibility to adjust sanctions to meet the needs of what is always an evolving diplomatic situation," said Tillerson at a congressional hearing.

While acknowledging the necessity to hold Russia accountable for its alleged meddling in US elections, Tillerson also emphasized the importance of a "constructive dialogue" with Russia.

Tillerson's urge came on the same day as the Senate overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan package of new Russia sanctions.

The new package of Russia sanctions, passed by a 97-2 vote in the Senate, was so far one of the strongest US responses to alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

The new sanctions will target among others "those conducting malicious cyber activity on behalf of the Russian government" and "those doing business with the Russian intelligence and defense sectors," according to a press release by Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

The new package also requires the White House to get a congressional review if it attempts to relax, suspend or terminate Russia sanctions.

To make it even harder for US President Donald Trump, who had been seeking rapprochement with Russia for months, to reject the new Russia sanctions, the Senate also attached the new Russia sanctions to a bill imposing sanctions on Iran.

As a result, Trump would have to reject new sanctions against Iran, which he supports, to derail the latest congressional effort to punish Russia.

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