BRUSSELS -- The European Union has approved fresh sanctions on Iran’s intelligence services and two Iranian nationals, after accusing Tehran of being behind plots to assassinate regime opponents on European soil, officials said on January 8.
Tehran denied the claim, saying the accusations were aimed at damaging relations between Iran and the EU.
An EU spokesman said that the identities of those hit with asset freezes and travel bans will be announced on January 9.
The EU accuses them of attempting -- or carrying out -- attacks against Iranian government opponents on Danish, Dutch, and French soil.
Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen welcomed the move as "very encouraging."
"Very encouraging that [the] EU has just agreed on new targeted sanctions against Iran in response to hostile activities and plots being planned and perpetrated in Europe, including Denmark," Rasmussen said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif hit back at the sanctions on Twitter, decrying the fact that several European countries have provided shelter to a banned Iranian opposition group, Mujahedeen-e Khalq, (MEK).
The Dutch government said on January 8 that it had "strong indications" that Iran was involved in the killings of two Dutch nationals of Iranian origin in 2015 and 2017. Both were opponents of the Iranian regime.
In October, Danish police accused Iranian authorities of planning to carry out attacks in Denmark on Iranian exiles belonging to a banned opposition group, the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz.
Also in October, France accused Iranian intelligence of being behind a plot to bomb a rally of Iranian opposition groups in Paris in June.
The alleged plots have strained relations between Tehran and the European Union, which has been working hard to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal, after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the accord aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.
Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said on January 8 that the EU has managed to make a "clear difference" between the two issues.
"We stand by the [nuclear] agreement, but on the other hand we have to have a robust foreign policy when we send clear signals that [we] will not accept this kind of interference on European soil," Samuelsen said.
Samuelsen made the comments ahead of a meeting attended by EU ministers for European Affairs in Brussels, where the decision to impose sanctions was formalized.
The Netherlands, Britain, France, Germany, Denmark, and Belgium met the Iranian authorities on January 8 to convey their "serious concerns" about Iran's hostile activities on EU territory, Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok and Interior Minister Kasja Ollogren wrote in a joint letter.
"Iran is expected to cooperate fully in removing the present concerns and, where necessary, aiding in criminal investigations," the letter said.
The letter also threatened further sanctions if Tehran does not cooperate.