Iran has halted fraught nuclear talks with the West, saying that Washington has acted contrary to the spirit of a "landmark agreement" established last month. The US has widened its blacklists, adding further people and companies under current sanctions.
"The negotiations were halted by [the] 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," Iranian news agency, Mehr, reported Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Abbas Araqchi, as saying.
Iran had agreed to freeze sections of its program, in exchange for approximately $7 billion in relief from economic sanctions imposed by the West. However, it emerged that approximately a dozen international firms were blacklisted for evading US-imposed sanctions on Thursday, despite warnings.
Araqchi said that the US was "against the spirit of the Geneva deal," and that Tehran was weighing up its "appropriate" response.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on Tuesday that the recent nuclear deal struck between his nation and world powers would evaporate should the United States Congress impose new economic sanctions on Iran.
Russia fully backed Iran's indignant sentiment: "The US administration's decision goes against the spirit of this document," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said, referring to the deal reached on November 24. Russia was among the six world powers brokering the talks.
"Widening American 'blacklists' could seriously complicate the fulfillment of the Geneva agreement, which proposes easing the sanctions regime," Zakharova added.
US administration officials insisted that the timing was coincidental.
US Secretary of State, John Kerry, stated that he still has every expectation that talks will continue over the next few days. He added that: "Folks feel a need to consult and take a moment." A spokesperson for the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, also said that she expects the talks to resume soon and that both sides had headed home to conduct consultations.
The deal struck in Geneva was intended to allow time for Iran and the P5+1 to come to a final agreement that the US says should limit Iran's nuclear program to peaceful uses, and that Tehran says should lead to rescinding all economic sanctions.
Sanctions have cost Iran US$120 billion in lost revenue since 2010, when the western powers imposed high hurdles on Iran and countries that engaged in trade with the Gulf state, according to the US Treasury.