Moscow also supports Tehran’s stand

Iran has slammed the decision by the United States to impose new sanctions, citing it as a step that undermines the spirit of the recently signed Geneva nuclear accord, which has promised to revive Tehran’s ties with the West.

“This [U.S.] move is against the spirit of the Geneva deal,” said Abbas Araqchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, who has been a senior member of the Iranian team of negotiators on the nuclear issue, led by foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Iran was “assessing the current situation”, added Mr. Araqchi. The imposition of new sanctions by the Obama administration appeared to have been influenced by the hardening advocacy in Congress of retaining pressure on Iran, despite the nuclear deal that the six global powers had signed with Iran on November 24.

Iran’s position is likely to be shaped by the stance taken by Mr. Zarif during a recent interview with Time magazine, where he had warned that that the Geneva deal would be “dead” if Washington imposed any fresh sanctions against Iran. “The entire deal is dead. We do not like to negotiate under duress. And if Congress adopts sanctions, it shows lack of seriousness and lack of a desire to achieve a resolution on the part of the United States,” said the foreign minister.

On Friday, Russia also strongly supported Iran’s stand. “The U.S. administration's decision goes against the spirit of this document,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. “Widening American 'blacklists' could seriously complicate the fulfillment of the Geneva agreement, which proposes easing the sanctions regime,” Ms. Zakharova observed.

The latest sanctions have targeted two Singapore based firms — Mid Oil Asia, and Singa Tankers. Mid Oil Asia is accused of supporting National Iranian Tanker Company in making money transfers, while Singa Tankers is charged with helping Tehran to make “urgent payments”.

Five companies are accused of supporting Iran’s nuclear and missile program, including the Iranian firm, the Eyvaz Technic Manufacturing Company, which has been blamed for transferring some components for Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium. Another company is accused of helping Tehran obtain components for the heavy- water reactor facility in Arak. Mr. Araqchi said new sanctions had been imposed on 19 companies and individuals.

Despite the latest curbs, the West has sent mixed signals to Iran in the post-Geneva phase. On Friday, an eight member European Parliament (EP) delegation has arrived in Tehran, apparently to explore possibilities of deepening ties. Iran’s Fars News Agency (FNA) is reporting that the visiting law makers will meet Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, Chairman of the Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Alaeddin Boroujerdi and a number of senior Iranian officials.

Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino also plans to visit Iran in the next few days, to discuss commercial and political ties — her visit marking the first official outing by an Italian top diplomat to Tehran in nearly 10 years. Observers point out that European oil companies are especially keen to enter Iran’s oil and gas sector, in anticipation of the lifting of sanctions in the future. This is borne out by a statement by the Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz that five European countries are planning to buy Iran’s natural gas, utilising a major pipeline that Tehran plans to construct.

Separately in Vienna, the European Union said that more time was required to work out complex technical steps that were required to implement last month's Geneva deal. The statement was made following four days of intensive talks between Iran and the six global powers in the Austrian capital.

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