Iran to rejoin nuclear negotiations after walk-out

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrive for a statement, Nov. 24, 2013 in Geneva. Getty

DUBAI -- Iran says it will resume technical talks with six world powers in Geneva on Thursday and Friday, a vital step in implementing a deal signed last month which suspends key elements of Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for limited relief from sanctions.

The talks between expert teams may continue into Saturday and Sunday if required, Fars news agency reported Iran's deputy chief negotiator, Abbas Araqchi, as saying.

A spokesperson for Catherine Ashton, the European Union diplomat leading the negotiations with Iran for the West, confirmed to CBS News on Wednesday that the talks were to resume the following day. Ashton’s press officer on Iran, Nabila Massrali, did not say how long the talks were expected to continue.

Last Thursday Iranian negotiators interrupted the technical talks in Vienna in protest against the U.S. blacklisting of an additional 19 Iranian companies and individuals under existing sanctions, saying the move was against the spirit of the nuclear deal.

U.S. officials maintain the blacklisting does not violate the Nov. 24 agreement and say they gave Iran advance warning of the action.  

Speaking to CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer just days after his team walked away from the negotiations in Vienna, however, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that team only learned of the new measures -- deemed “sanctions” by Iran -- “a few minutes before the announcement.”

“I do not think that is, that was, useful, because by the time they conveyed it to us that announcement had already been made,” said Zarif in the wide-ranging interview in Tehran. He added that, in his mind, the U.S. decision to blacklist the companies and individuals with the sensitive negotiations still going on was a “very wrong move.”

 He said he was “saddened” by the move but that he is committed to the short-term deal meant to allow for a longer, six-month period of negotiations.

“We are committed to the plan of action and the implementation of Geneva, but we believe it takes two to tango,” Zarif said.

“The process has been derailed, the process has not died,” he added. “We are trying to put it back and to correct the path, and continue the negotiations because I believe there is a lot at stake for everybody.”

The development has highlighted the sensitivities involved in implementing the agreement. Some U.S. lawmakers are pushing for further sanctions against Iran, a move which hardliners in Iran see as proof the United States cannot be trusted.

The six powers — the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — are seeking to curb Iran's atomic program to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons. Iran denies any such intention, saying it needs nuclear power in order to generate electricity.

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