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EU puts Iran intelligence unit and two staff on terrorism list, freezes assets

Reuters logo Reuters 08/01/2019 By Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Robin Emmott

The European Union on Tuesday agreed to place a unit of the Iranian Intelligence ministry and two of its staff on the EU terrorist list for planning assassinations in Europe, the Danish Foreign Ministry and EU diplomats said.

The decision, which freezes financial assets in the bloc belonging to the unit and the two individuals, comes after Denmark said last year it suspected an Iranian government intelligence service of carrying out an assassination plot on its soil.

France has said there was no doubt the Iranian intelligence ministry was behind a failed attack in Paris.

Iran has denied any involvement in the alleged plots, saying the accusations were intended to damage EU-Iran relations.

"EU just agreed to enact sanctions against an Iranian Intelligence Service for its assassination plots on European soil. Strong signal from the EU that we will not accept such behaviour in Europe," Denmark's Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said on Twitter.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen speaks during a news conference in Copenhagen © Reuters/RITZAU SCANPIX Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen speaks during a news conference in Copenhagen

The decision was taken without debate at an unrelated meeting of Europe ministers in Brussels and the asset freeze comes into effect on Wednesday, EU officials said.

The Danish Foreign Ministry named the two employees as the deputy minister and director general of intelligence, Saeid Hashemi Moghadam, and Assadollah Asadi, a Vienna-based diplomat. Their names are set to appear officially in the EU's Official Journal on Wednesday.

The move follows efforts by Denmark and France to marshal a EU-wide response to the accusations of the Iranian attack plots in France and Denmark late last year.

But imposing economic sanctions on Iran, however slight, remains highly sensitive for the bloc.

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The EU has been straining to uphold the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers that U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of in May. It has been less willing to consider sanctions, instead seeking talks with Tehran.

Iran has warned it could ditch the nuclear deal if EU powers do not protect its trade and financial benefits.

(Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen, Emil Gjerding Nielson in Copenhagen, Robin Emmott in Brussels; Editing by Catherine Evans, William Maclean)

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