Iran has halted nuclear talks with six major world powers after the United States expanded its blacklist on sanctions, accusing Washington of going against the spirit of last month’s landmark agreement on its nuclear programme.
The US on Thursday added new companies and individuals to a list of those under sanctions aimed at preventing Tehran from obtaining the capability to make nuclear weapons.
"We are evaluating the situation and Iran will react accordingly to the new sanctions imposed on 19 companies and individuals. It is against the spirit of the Geneva deal," Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, told the Iranian Fars news agency on Friday.
Araghchi, who is also a member of Tehran's nuclear negotiating team, was referring to a November 24 interim agreement with the P5+1 countries (the United Kingdom, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US) under which Tehran would curb its nuclear programme in exchange for limited relief from economic and trade sanctions over the next six months. The interim deal is seen as a step to a potential permanent agreement.
Mehr, another Iranian news agency, quoted sources as saying the that "new American sanctions" were the reason for the interruption.
"The negotiations were halted by Iranian delegation because of new American sanctions. The Iranian negotiating team has halted the talks at this stage and are headed back to the capital due to America's lack of commitment to the agreement," Mehr reported.
'Talks to resume soon'
However, a spokesman for Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief who represents the world powers in the talks, said both sides had headed home for consultations and that she expected the talks in Vienna to resume soon.
[The expanded blacklist] is against the spirit of the Geneva deal
"After four days of lengthy and detailed talks, reflecting the complexity of the technical issues discussed, it became clear that further work is needed," Michael Mann said.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, speaking in Jarusalem on Friday, said he had every expectation that the nuclear talks would continue in the coming days. He added that talks the current halt was because parties "feel a need to consult and take a moment".
The White House said that expanding economic sanctions to cover additional companies did not violate November 24 agreement.
Spokesman Jay Carney said President Barack Obama is committed to
refraining from any new nuclear-related sanctions.
The blacklisting of additional foreign companies and individuals for evading US sanctions was widely seen as a move to head off moves in the US Congress to impose additional sanctions that would be in clear breach of the November 24 agreement in Geneva. US administration officials insist the timing was entirely coincidental.
The US Treasury and State Department said the blacklistings showed the Geneva deal "does not, and will not, interfere with our continued efforts to expose and disrupt those supporting Iran's nuclear programme or seeking to evade our sanctions".
Meanwhile, Obama's campaign to hold off on new sanctions won a key endorsement on Thursday when the chairman of the US Senate Banking Committee rejected tightening measures against Iran at this time.