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EU vows to sanction Iran human rights violators

BRUSSELS, March 21, 2011 (AFP) - The European Union on Monday agreed to rapidly slap sanctions against Iranians responsible for human rights violations, a declaration adopted by foreign ministers showed.

The EU "will continue to address human rights abuses in Iran, including by swiftly introducing restrictive measures targeted against those responsible for grave human rights violations," the declaration said.

Expressing fears over a "deteriorating" rights landscape, the 27 EU states said they were "alarmed by the dramatic increase in executions in recent months and the systematic repression of Iranian citizens."

It cited "human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, women’s activists, bloggers, persons belonging to ethnic and religious minorities and members of the opposition," saying they "face harassment and arrests for exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly."

Ministers again called on the Iranian authorities "to live up to the international human rights obligations that Iran has entered into," calling in particular on Tehran "to release immediately all political prisoners and to halt executions."