Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 14 October 2019

Iran ‘committed to nuclear deal’ despite blacklisting

Foreign minister Zarif describes US government move to freeze assets of companies doing business with Iran as 'very wrong move', but says his country remains committed to the agreement struck in Geneva.

Iran remains committed to reaching a nuclear deal with the West despite a move by the United States to blacklist Iranian companies for evading sanctions, its foreign minister said yesterday.

Mohammad Javad Zarif said it was “a very wrong move” for the US government to freeze assets of companies doing business with Iran while a deal aimed at keeping his country from developing nuclear weapons is being pursued.

“We are committed to the implementation of the plan of action that we adopted in Geneva,” Mr Zarif said in an interview on the CBS programme Face the Nation. “But we believe that it takes two to tango.”

In a post on his Facebook page earlier, Mr Zarif said Tehran was “pursuing the negotiations seriously and of course we will give a well-considered, purposeful, smart and proper reaction to any inappropriate and unconstructive move”.

The US blacklisted a dozen overseas companies and individuals on Thursday for evading its sanctions imposed on Iran to halt what the West sees as its bid to build a nuclear bomb.

In response, Iran negotiators withdrew from talks in Vienna on implementing the interim nuclear deal reached in Geneva.

Senior US officials argued the move was taken under an existing sanctions regime which had forced Tehran to negotiations that led to an interim deal under which it agreed last month to freeze parts of its nuclear programme.

The US president Barack Obama’s administration had pledged in the interim deal reached last month that it would oppose any new sanctions during the next six months while trying to negotiate a solution to the decade-long dispute over Iran’s nuclear activities.

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, appeared before the House foreign affairs committee last week to defend the preliminary six-month accord that provides for a freeze on Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for a limited easing of sanctions.

Some US legislators oppose the deal as inadequate and are pushing for new sanctions on Iran.

“Many of us are very sceptical about the conditions under which this pause is being undertaken,” the Arizona Republican senator John McCain said on Face the Nation yesterday.

Mr McCain said he was considering pushing for new sanctions that would go into effect if a broader deal is not reached in six months.

“There is the scenario if you were the Iranians just keep dragging out these negotiations, meanwhile the centrifuges still spin and they progress towards this point where all it takes is the turn of a wrench and they have a nuclear weapon,” he said.

The US blacklisting measure has drawn strong criticism in Iran.

Since Saturday, conservative newspapers have blamed what they say is the “violation of the Geneva deal” by the American administration.

Some hardline students from the Islamist militia known as the Basij have written an open letter to Mr Zarif urging him to “defend the dignity” of Iran “by giving a firm response.”

In the letter, published yesterday by Iranian newspapers, they also backed the decision of the negotiating team to quit the Vienna talks.

And Fars news agency wrote: “Iran is not a country to remain ... unilaterally and disgracefully committed to the Geneva deal.”

Mr Zarif vowed to answer at the right time domestic critics who were using his “necessary silence” to voice their displeasure at the nuclear deal reached with the six world powers in Geneva on November 24.

“Some friends who were not happy with the Geneva joint action programme have already announced its premature death, which is more the expression of their desire rather than the truth,” he said on Facebook.

“The negotiating team has a more important responsibility... and is ready to remain silent against unjust and unfair accusations for the sake of national interests, but will answer to all the criticism and ambiguity at the right time.”

Sadegh Zibakalam, a reformist political analyst, said anti-American slogans were part of the political strategy of the conservatives.

“If we pull the rug of anti-Americanism from under the feet of the conservatives, they would have nothing left to say,” Ilna news agency quoted him as saying.

* With reporting by Bloomberg News and Agence France-Presse

Updated: December 15, 2013 04:00 AM