Iran halts nuclear talks after U.S. sanctions move

The decision came hours after Washington blacklisted some overseas companies and individuals for evading U.S. sanctions

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Iranian negotiators halted nuclear talks with major powers to return to Tehran for consultations Thursday after Washington blacklisted a dozen companies and individuals for evading U.S. sanctions, state media reported.

“The Iranian negotiators interrupted the talks with the P5+1 for consultations in Tehran,” a negotiator told Iran’s official IRNA news agency.

The negotiators had been discussing the implementation of a landmark interim accord agreed last month with the P5+1 -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany.

The decision to halt the talks in Vienna came hours after Washington blacklisted a dozen overseas companies and individuals for evading U.S. sanctions on Iran.

The move prompted two top senators to bow to White House pleas not to introduce new sanctions in Congress.

But it risked angering Tehran after repeated warnings from Iranian officials in recent days that any additional punitive measures would be a violation of last month’s agreement.

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi on Friday slammed the U.S. move, saying it went against the spirit of a landmark deal agreed last month.

“America’s move is against the spirit of the Geneva deal,” under which world powers agreed not to impose any new sanctions, Araqchi told the Fars news agency.

“We are evaluating the situation and will make the appropriate response,” he said, as his negotiating team headed home for consultations after halting talks with the powers in Vienna.

Under the interim deal reached in Geneva, Iran agreed to freeze parts of its suspect nuclear program for six months in return for some $7 billion in relief from Western sanctions as it negotiates a final, comprehensive accord to allay suspicions it is seeking a weapons capability.

The United States also agreed to refrain from slapping new sanctions on Iran, but senior administration officials argued that Thursday’s measures were taken as part of the existing sanctions regime which had forced Tehran to the negotiating table.

A spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the powers in the talks, said that both sides had headed home for consultations and that she expected the talks to resume soon.

“After four days of lengthy and detailed talks, reflecting the complexity of the technical issues discussed, it became clear that further work is needed,” spokesman Michael Mann said.

“There will now be consultations in capitals, in the expectation that technical talks will continue soon,” he said via email.

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