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Iran Says New US Sanctions Defy Nuclear Talks’ Spirit

FILE – Iran, saying it has halted its most sensitive uranium enrichment work, objects to the U.S. adding new targets for sanctions. Here, Iranian technicians prepare to cut connections between twin cascades at Iran's Natanz nuclear facility, Jan. 20, 2014.

Iran criticized the latest U.S. sanctions on nine targets who Washington contends have helped Tehran avoid existing sanctions or commit human rights abuses, saying the sanctions violated the spirit of international talks on Iran's nuclear program.

The new targets include six individuals and one entity suspected of assisting the Iranian government in buying or acquiring U.S. currency, and two companies linked to human rights violations.

Iran said the U.S. move contradicted the spirit of the nuclear talks between Iran and the six powers known as "P5+1": the United States, France, Germany, Russia, China and Britain.

"At a time negotiations are underway with P5+1, such a move raises doubts about America's intentions and violates the good will principles," foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.

"This action is for mere publicity and will have no bearing whatsoever on our commercial policies," she added.

Enforcement cited

David Cohen, U.S. Treasury Department undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said Tuesday's move was among efforts to enforce the existing sanctions regime. He said the United States did not support imposing new nuclear-related sanctions.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who leads the country's nuclear negotiating team, on Tuesday said low-level talks on its nuclear activities would resume in Geneva on January 15, with wide gaps remaining in their positions.

Iran says its program is peaceful; the West fears it may lead to developing nuclear weapons. Zarif repeatedly has urged the United States and its Western European allies to drop "unrealistic" demands so the 12-year dispute can be resolved.

The P5+1 reached a preliminary agreement with Iran last year for it to suspend its most sensitive nuclear activity. Western countries in turn eased some economic sanctions.

The two sides failed for a second time last month to meet a self-imposed deadline for ending the standoff. A preliminary accord was extended until June 30.

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