10/02/2013 04:24 EDT | Updated 12/01/2013 05:12 EST

Obama engages Iran as Congress is poised to pass tough new economic sanctions

WASHINGTON - Congress generally backs President Barack Obama's new outreach to Iran, but with tougher U.S. economic sanctions against Tehran on the way, the president's diplomatic task could get harder if he doesn't make quick progress.

Obama's phone call last week to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (hah-SAHN' roh-HAH'-nee) was the first contact in more than 30 years between the leaders of the two countries.

Still, lawmakers are moving forward on legislation for new sanctions against Iran.

Congress remains skeptical of Iran's willingness to curtail uranium enrichment activity, which many believe is being used to give Iran nuclear weapons capability. Iran denies it is seeking nuclear arms.

No bill, however, would likely be finalized before November, giving the administration at least several weeks to see whether Iran under Rouhani changes course.