MOSCOW Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday praised the U.S. role in forging an interim deal to ease concerns about Iran's nuclear program but said he hoped a U.S. decision to broaden a blacklist of companies under existing sanctions would not undermine progress toward a comprehensive agreement.
In an annual news conference, Putin said the deal reached last month between Iran and global powers seeking to ensure it does not seek atomic weapons would have been impossible without the "pragmatic position" of President Barack Obama's administration.
Iranian negotiators interrupted the talks last week on implementation of the interim agreement 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 deal.
"As for sanctions, I am certain that this is a counterproductive decision," Putin said. "I hope ... movements in this direction will not be a barrier to all of us moving forward toward a solution to the Iranian nuclear problem."
Russia approved four rounds of U.N. Security Council sanctions aimed at curbing its nuclear activities but has sharply criticized additional punitive measures imposed by the United States and Europe.
Putin, whose country built Iran's first nuclear power plant, said Iran had the right to a peaceful nuclear program and "the international community has no right to demand any discriminatory restrictions on it."
(Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk; Writing by Steve Gutterman, Editing by Timothy Heritage)