VIENNA: A breakthrough agreement to end a standoff over Iran’s nuclear program appeared to face its first major difficulty on Friday with Russia warning that a U.S. sanctions move could “seriously” complicate its implementation.
Russia, which along with the United States is among the six world powers which negotiated the November 24 interim accord with Tehran, echoed Iran’s criticism by saying Washington’s sanctions decision violated the spirit of the deal.
Moscow’s statement came after diplomats said Iran had interrupted technical talks with the six nations in Vienna over how to implement the agreement, under which Tehran is to cap its nuclear program in return for limited sanctions easing.
The developments highlighted potential obstacles negotiators face in pressing ahead with efforts to resolve a decade-old dispute between the Islamic Republic and the West that has stirred fears of a new Middle East war.
Several Western diplomats insisted the inconclusive outcome of the December 9-12 expert-level discussions in Vienna should not be seen as a sign that the political deal hammered out nearly three weeks ago was in serious trouble.
But Russia made its concerns clear a day after the United States blacklisted additional companies and people under existing sanctions intended to prevent Iran from obtaining the capability to make nuclear weapons. Iran denies any such aims.
“The U.S. administration’s decision goes against the spirit of this document,” said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, referring to the Geneva agreement between Iranand the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany.
“Widening American ‘blacklists’ could seriously complicate the fulfillment of the Geneva agreement, which proposes easing sanctions pressure.”
Russia built Iran’s first nuclear power plant and has much better ties with Tehran than Western states. It supported four rounds of U.N. Security Council sanctions aimed at reining in Tehran’s nuclear program but has criticized the United States and Europe for imposing additional sanctions.
U.S. officials said the blacklisting move showed the Geneva deal “does not, and will not, interfere with our continued efforts to expose and disrupt those supporting Iran’s nuclear program or seeking to evade our sanctions”.
The new measure, the first such enforcement action since Geneva, targeted entities that are suspected of involvement in the proliferation of materials for weapons of mass destruction and trying to evade the current sanctions.
Some U.S. lawmakers want further sanctions on the Islamic state. But the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama has campaigned to hold off on new measures for now to create space for the diplomatic push to settle the nuclear row.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told the semi-official Fars news agency in reaction to the U.S. decision: “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.”
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said the U.S. government’s “unconstructive, repetitive and useless measure” was in contrast with efforts to dissuade lawmakers from adopting new sanctions.