MONACO There is no reason why the European Union could not relax some sanctions on Iran in January as part of an interim deal between Tehran and major powers to curb its nuclear program, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said on Saturday.
Iran on Friday interrupted technical talks in Vienna with the six world powers over how to implement the November 24 accord, under which Tehran is to curb its atomic activities in return for limited sanctions easing.
Iran appeared to be responding to a U.S. move on Thursday to blacklist additional companies and people under existing sanctions intended to prevent Iran from obtaining the capability to make nuclear weapons. Iran denies any such aims.
Russia, which along with the United States is one of the six powers, echoed Iranian criticism that the blacklist violated the spirit of the deal.
Bildt said the U.S. decision was "not particularly helpful", but played down the seriousness of Friday's events.
"I don't think the problems in Vienna were problems. That was overblown," Bildt told Reuters on the sidelines of a World Policy Conference, a gathering of political and business leaders, in Monaco.
"I would hope we would see the lifting of the sanctions in January. I see no reason against it."
EU foreign ministers meet next week to discuss a proposal from EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to ease sanctions.
The accord has been widely welcomed by Iranians but hardliners are irked by the foreign policy shift and apprehensive that they are losing influence over Iran's most powerful man, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The EU has said the timing on easing the sanctions would be coordinated with Iran since it was up to both sides to keep their bargain and it was not yet clear when decisions could be taken to change sanctions legislation.
(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)