WASHINGTON -- Twenty-four former diplomats and generals have called on U.S. President Obama to pursue serious negotiations with Iran, including securing limitations on the country's nuclear program in exchange for a proportional paring back of international sanctions.
The group says a "diplomacy-centric approach" is the only option that can prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon and a war, and address other critical areas including Iran's human rights situation.
The former diplomats and generals, including retired U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Thomas Pickering and former Assistant Secretary of Defense Larry Korb, say that a further tightening of the sanctions is unlikely to stop Iran's sensitive nuclear work.
Instead, they say further sanctions could damage the United States' reputation among ordinary Iranians who are suffering from the effects of the sanctions.
In related news, the United States has imposed financial sanctions on four Iranian companies and one individual it says are linked to the country's weapons program.
The Treasury Department announced on December 21 it had barred U.S. transactions and frozen all U.S. assets held by the SAD Import Export Company, the Chemical Industries and Development of Materials Group, the Marine Industries Organization, and its director, Mustafa Esbati.
The Doostan International Company was sanctioned for supporting Iran's Aerospace Industries Organization, previously identified by Washington as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction.
SAD also allegedly shipped weapons to the Syrian government.
Earlier on December 21, the European Union added one individual and 18 companies to its Iran sanctions list.
The EU said 490 entities and 105 individuals are now targeted by asset freezes and travel bans.
With reporting by dpa