DUBAI Iran criticized the latest U.S. sanctions on nine targets who Washington says have helped Tehran avoid existing sanctions or commit human rights abuses, saying they contravened the spirit of international talks on Iran's nuclear program.
The new targets include five individuals and one entity suspected of assisting the Iranian government to buy or acquire 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.
Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said Tuesday's move was part of efforts to enforce the existing sanctions regime and the United States did not support imposing new nuclear-related sanctions.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who leads the country's nuclear negotiating team, said on Tuesday low-level talks on its nuclear activities would resume in Geneva on Jan 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 has repeatedly urged the United States and its Western European allies to drop "unrealistic" demands to make it possible for the 12-year dispute to 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.
(Reporting by Mehrdad Balali; Editing by Dominic Evans)