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The European Union is putting an Iranian intelligence service and two senior officials on its terror list over suspicions that they have been involved in assassinations and plots to kill opposition activists in Denmark, France and the Netherlands, Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said Tuesday.
Ministers from the 28-nation bloc's governments "agreed to enact sanctions" at a meeting in Brussels in what Samuelsen said is a "strong signal from the EU that we will not accept such behavior." A freeze on their funds and assets will take effect on Wednesday once their names are published in the EU's official journal.
Samuelsen said Denmark had worked with France to put the Direction of Internal Security at Iran's Intelligence Ministry and its chief Saeid Hashemi Moghadam on the list, adding that the aim is "to create a resolute and robust European foreign policy; that we respond clearly and significantly when our borders are crossed."
The Dutch government said that, based on information collected by its General Intelligence and Security Service, "the Netherlands considers it probable that Iran had a hand in the preparation or commission of assassinations and attacks on EU territory," including the killing of two Dutch nationals of Iranian origin in the cities of Almere in 2015 and in The Hague in 2017. Iran has denied involvement.
Paris alleges that Tehran's intelligence internal security section is linked to an attempt to bomb a rally of the People's Mujahedeen of Iran, or MEK, on June 30 outside the French capital. The Danes say Iran in October was planning to kill in Denmark a member of the group that Tehran has blamed for a Sept. 22 attack that killed at least 25 people. The group, called Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz, condemned the violence and said it was not involved.
The blacklisting move could complicate EU efforts to keep alive an international agreement curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions after President Donald Trump pulled the United States out. Amid heated U.S. rhetoric and sanctions, the bloc is struggling to establish a balance between encouraging Iran to stay on board while punishing it for alleged transgressions not linked to the pact.
Samuelsen said that some EU countries were "hesitant" Tuesday about the move due to the nuclear deal with Iran. He didn't name them.
"We are behind the nuclear deal as long as they stick to their commitments,"Samuelsen said. "It is in the European interest that the deal is being respected."
The Dutch government said that "as long as Iran fulfils its obligations under the deal, the European Union will do the same. Nevertheless, Iran will be held to account for matters that affect EU and international security interests."
Samuelsen said he had conversations with a U.S. colleague ahead of the decision and was told it was "a bold decision, bold initiative."
"The fact that we're clear on this was appreciated from the American side," he told reporters.
In Denmark, Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen tweeted that the move was "very encouraging," adding "EU stands united — such actions are unacceptable and must have consequences."
Olsen reported from Copenhagen, Denmark. Mike Corder in The Hague contributed.