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Trump administration seeks to tone down Russia sanctions: Report

The administration of US President Donald Trump is trying to water down the recent anti-Russia sanctions bill passed in the Senate, according to a new report.

The White House is concerned that the new sanctions are a hurdle to Trump’s attempts at getting Moscow to cooperate with Washington on several fronts, Politico reported Saturday, citing a senior administration official.

The US Senate in Congress voted nearly unanimously on Thursday to impose new sanctions against Iran and Russia, setting up a possible confrontation with the Trump administration as it attempts to improve relations with Moscow.

In order for the bill to become law, it must still pass the US House of Representatives and be signed by Trump. House aides said they expected the lower chamber in Congress to begin debating the measure in the coming weeks, although they could not predict when it might face a final vote.

The Trump White House now hopes to convince House Republicans to tone down the sanctions and pave the way for a friendlier dialogue with Russia.

Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown told Politico that the new Republican president had already asked the House to “slow and block” the bill.

“This is not something the administration is calling for us to do,” Brown said of the new anti-Russia bans. “I applaud the courage of a number of my Republican colleagues who said no to the administration and did the right thing for the country to keep a foreign power out of our elections.”

The sanctions came amid a controversial investigation into the seemingly pro-Kremlin US head of state’s possible “collusion” with Russia during the 2016 campaign and after his election victory.

Despite allegations by the US intelligence community that Moscow played a role in the presidential vote last November, Trump has supported improving relations with America’s former Cold War foe.

On Saturday, Democratic Representative Krysten Sinema said in a tweet that Russia should be held accountable for trying to “undermine American democracy.”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressed concern in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing this week about the new sanctions.

“I would urge Congress to ensure any legislation allows the president to have the flexibility to adjust sanctions,” he told the panel.

However, Republican Senator Marco Rubio said it was the State Department that was concerned about the sanctions and not Trump.

“It’s a legitimate argument; I’ve thought about it, I don’t agree with it. And you saw the majority of my colleagues didn’t agree with it this week,” the Florida senator said Sunday.

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