EU imposes new sanctions on Iran over alleged assassination plots

The bloc put individuals and intelligence unit on the EU terrorist list - freezing their financial assets.

Photo: EPA Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok talks to journalists in the parliament about the Iranian involvement in the assassinations.

Iran is behind four terrorist attacks in Europe in recent times, the European Union announced, freezing the assets of an Iranian intelligence agency's unit and two individuals over the alleged assassination plots. One of the individuals being designated as a terrorist and added to EU's terror list is Saeid Hashemi Moghadam - the head of the Directorate for Internal Security in Iran's Intelligence ministry - whose assets had already been targeted by France.

According to bloc's officials he and the others involved on the list are responsible for attempting, or carrying out a string of attacks within several European countries.

In a statement the bloc also hinted that if Teheran doesn't stop, more sanctions will follow. “Iran was informed that involvement in such matters is entirely unacceptable and must be stopped immediately...further sanctions cannot be ruled out,” the EU said. Tehran, however, denies the claims and says the accusations are intended to damage relations between Iran and the EU.

The accusations came after Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said on Tuesday that his country's secret service had "strong indications" that Iran was involved in the assassination of Dutch nationals in Almere in 2015 and in The Hague in 2017. In a statement, he then added that the two murdered men were of Iranian origin and had been opponents of the Iranian regime. In connection with the deaths the Netherlands in November expelled two Iranian embassy workers.

Meanwhile, in separate case in October, France publicly accused Iranian intelligence of being behind a plan to bomb a rally of opposition groups in Paris. The plan was however unsuccessful, since France, Belgium, Austria, Luxembourg and Germany were all involved in helping to foil the alleged plot - as arrests were made across European borders.

Denmark has also accused Tehran of trying to kill dissidents on its soil. Thus, Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen welcomed the latest move - describing the new EU sanctions as a "huge victory" and a "very clear signal" that such attacks are "completely unacceptable".

In recent months Albania has expelled senior Iranian diplomats, as well, reportedly due to links with foiled terror plots.

The sanctions come despite the fact that the EU has previously trodden cautiously on Iran as it sought to save a beleaguered nuclear deal with Tehran after the US withdrew last year. The move also marks the first time the bloc imposes sanctions on Iran since they were lifted three years ago after the 2015 deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

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