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EU set to pile more sanctions on Iran over crackdown on protesters

The protests, triggered by the Sept 16 death of Mahsa Amini in morality police custody, mark one of the boldest challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution.

Reuters
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A newspaper with a cover picture of Mahsa Amini, a woman who died after being arrested by Iranian morality police is seen in Tehran, Iran, Sept 18. Photo: Reuters
A newspaper with a cover picture of Mahsa Amini, a woman who died after being arrested by Iranian morality police is seen in Tehran, Iran, Sept 18. Photo: Reuters

European Union foreign ministers gathered in Brussels on Monday to impose more sanctions on Iran in response to what the bloc has condemned as Tehran's widespread use of force against peaceful protesters.

The protests, triggered by the Sept 16 death of Mahsa Amini in morality police custody, mark one of the boldest challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution. So far, 336 demonstrators have been killed in the unrest and nearly 15,100 detained, according to the activist HRANA news agency.

"Today, we are going to approve another package of sanctions against the people responsible for the repression of the demonstrators," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters as he arrived for the talks in Brussels.

In a first round of sanctions in October, the EU imposed travel bans and asset freezes on 15 Iranian individuals and institutions linked to the young woman's death and the clamp-down on protests.

The new package would see 31 designations for human rights violations that would target individuals and entities covering asset bans and travel freezes, two diplomats told Reuters.

French President Emmanuel Macron left the door open to the EU designating Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) a terrorist organisation.

"We are several who are pushing for targeted sanctions especially on Pasdaran (IRGC) and people in the regime," Macron told France Inter radio on Monday.

Russia's war in Ukraine will be another major topic of the discussions in Brussels.

The meeting of foreign ministers on Monday, followed by talks of the defence ministers on Tuesday, is the EU's first high-level gathering since Russian forces abandoned Kherson, the only regional Ukrainian capital they had captured.

The foreign ministers will discuss increasing support for Kyiv during the winter and probably also touch on a ninth package of sanctions on Russia, though diplomats say no decision is expected yet.

The meeting comes after US President Joe Biden's Democrats managed to retain control of the Senate in the midterm election, easing concerns Republicans might force Biden administration to scale back crucial US aid for Ukraine.

Foreign ministers will also start a discussion on a long-term approach to Moscow since the EU's past strategy, which saw selective engagement with Russia on topics such as counter-terrorism and climate change, was made obsolete by its Feb 24 invasion of Ukraine.

On Tuesday, EU defence ministers are set to formally launch a military assistance mission to Ukraine which aims to train some 15,000 Ukrainian troops.

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