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Iran quits nuke talks protesting US blacklist move

TEHRAN -- Iran has quit nuclear talks with the major powers, accusing Washington on Friday of going against the spirit of a landmark agreement reached last month by expanding its sanctions blacklist.

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

But Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi said the U.S. move went against the spirit of the deal struck in Geneva under which the powers undertook to impose no further sanctions for six months and Tehran was weighing the “appropriate response”.

“America's move is against the spirit of the Geneva deal,” Araqchi told the Fars news agency as his team headed back to Tehran from Vienna.

“We are evaluating the situation and will make the appropriate response,” he said.

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

Iranian negotiators quit the implementation talks late on their fourth day Thursday after Washington blacklisted a dozen companies and individuals for evading US sanctions.

Mehr news agency quoted informed sources as saying the “new American sanctions” were the reason for the interruption.

Within the Framework of Existing Sanctions?

Under the Geneva deal, Washington agreed to refrain from imposing new sanctions on Iran.

But senior administration officials argued that Thursday's blacklistings were carried out within the framework of the existing sanctions regime which had forced Tehran to the negotiating table and did not constitute new measures.

The blacklisting of a dozen additional foreign firms and individuals for evading US sanctions was widely seen as a move to head off moves in Congress to impose additional sanctions that would be in clear breach of the Geneva agreement.

Administration officials insisted the timing was entirely coincidental.

But just hours afterwards, Senate banking committee chairman Tim Johnson and the committee's top Republican Michael Crapo agreed with the White House that Washington should not introduce new sanctions, warning they could “rupture” international unity against Tehran's nuclear program.

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