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EU extends Iran human rights sanctions

April 12, 2018

The measures were first passed in 2011 in response to government repression during and after Iran's 2009 election. The European Union is set to discuss whether it should pass new sanctions at a meeting next Monday.

Flags of the European Union waving in Strasbourg
Image: picture-alliance//dpa/Tass/A. Vitvitsky

On Thursday, the European Union prolonged sanctions against Iran for its human rights record until 2019.

The measures include freezing the assets of 82 people and one entity and banning any exports to Iran that could be used for human rights violations.

The bloc first passed the sanctions in 2011 in response to the Iranian government's crackdown against protesters during and after the 2009 elections.

Read more: EU rejects Donald Trump's attempt to dump Iran nuclear deal, saying it works

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Fear of Trump

Thursday's decision came amid heightened fears among many EU countries that the United States could walk away from a 2015 deal that lifted separate sanctions against Iran.

That deal saw the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany agree to suspend sanctions in exchange for Tehran promising to halt its nuclear program.

But US President Donald Trump has repeatedly slammed the agreement as ineffective and threatened to pull the US out of it. In January, he set May 12 as a deadline for improving the accord.

If the deal is not modified by then, the US could reintroduce sanctions against Iran and effectively kill the deal. Britain, France and Germany have been trying to stop the deal from unravelling.

In a US Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday, Secretary of State-designate Mike Pompeo told lawmakers that fixing the Iran nuclear deal was in US interests.

"If there's no chance that we can fix it, I will recommend to the president that we work with our allies to achieve a better outcome and to achieve a better deal," Pompeo said.

Read more: Donald Trump waives Iran nuclear sanctions for third time, warns he won't do it again

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Internal EU divisions

Although EU countries agree on existing sanctions and the need to protect the 2015 nuclear deal, they are divided on whether the bloc should pass new sanctions against Iran.

France has argued for new punitive measures in response to Iran's ballistic missile program and its role in conflicts in the Middle East.

Some officials believe those measures could convince Trump of Europe's resolve to punish recent Iranian transgressions, which in turn could convince the president to stick with the 2015 nuclear deal. Britain and Germany have shown support for the French initiative.

Read more: Iran: Nuclear deal relies on 'full compliance' from US

But other EU countries led by Italy have pushed back. They fear the new sanctions would undermine EU companies trying to enter the Iranian market. The group, which also includes Austria and Spain, has also argued new sanctions may not convince Trump to stick with the 2015 nuclear agreement.

EU foreign ministers are set to discuss new sanctions on Monday in Luxembourg. A vote on new measures would require unanimity.

Read more: German-Iranian business ties growing again

amp/ng (AFP, Reuters)

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