Iran pulled out of technical-level denuclearization talks with six world powers Friday to protest the expansion of a U.S. blacklist of companies and individuals allegedly supporting Iran’s atomic program. Tehran said the U.S. move violates the spirit of last month’s groundbreaking agreement on Iran’s nuclear development.
But the White House said the action taken Thursday to freeze the U.S. assets of firms and people in several other countries did not violate the agreement, and was based on existing sanctions.
In the first major hurdle to the interim deal reached last month in Geneva, the United States targeted more than a dozen companies and individuals in Panama, Singapore, Ukraine and elsewhere for allegedly evading sanctions against Iran and maintaining covert business with Iran's national tanker company.
Other companies the U.S. accused of being involved directly in the proliferation of material useful for weapons of mass destruction were also blacklisted from the U.S. market. American citizens are banned from any transactions with the blacklisted people and firms.
The move was an effort by the Obama administration to show it will enforce existing laws, even as it presses Congress to hold off on additional measures while world powers pursue a comprehensive nuclear deal with Tehran. But the Iranians called Washington’s latest action "unconstructive and against good intentions," and accused the U.S. of sending mixed signals.
"This is a game of double standards – it is not in accord with the talks we have had and it is against the spirit of the Geneva agreement," senior Iranian nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi told the official news agency IRNA. "On the one hand they tried to halt sanctions in Congress, and on the other hand they made a new move and the Treasury added new companies to the list."
Araghchi, who is also deputy foreign minister, said the Iranians were assessing the situation to determine the proper response. IRNA also quoted an unnamed official as saying an Iranian team of experts had halted technical talks in Vienna with the six world powers – the U.S., the United Kingdom, China, Russia, France and Germany – because of the expansion of the U.S. blacklist.
"Iran has ended the talks because of the addition of more individuals and companies to the sanctions list. It was against the path of agreements," the official was quoted as saying.