WASHINGTON, March 4 (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Robert Menendez said on Tuesday he still sees his legislation to impose new sanctions on Iran as the best way to ensure that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and prevent military action over its nuclear program.
In a speech to the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expressed deep skepticism about Iran's intentions in current negotiations with world powers.
"I don't believe we will have sufficient time to effectively impose new sanctions before Iran could produce a nuclear weapon, leaving the West with only two options, a nuclear armed Iran or a military action," Menendez said.
"I believe that we can prevent those being the only two options by the legislation that we have proposed with Senator (Mark) Kirk," he said, to loud applause.
Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, and Kirk, an Illinois Republican, were lead authors of a bill to impose new sanctions on Iran if international negotiations on a nuclear agreement falter.
President Barack Obama's administration lobbied hard against the bill, saying that it would endanger the delicate talks with Iran. The measure stalled in the Senate and hasn't been brought to the floor for a vote, but Menendez has said he is prepared to push for one when the time is right.
"It is clear that only intense, punishing economic pressure influences Iranian leaders," he said. (Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)