Germany steps up pressure for EU to impose sanctions on Iran

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock attends a plenary session at the German lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, in Berlin, Germany, September 29, 2022. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

BERLIN/PARIS, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Germany's foreign minister said on Thursday she wanted the European Union to impose sanctions on Iran following the death of a young woman in police custody and the subsequent crackdown on protesters.

The bloc last agreed human rights sanctions on Tehran in 2021. No Iranians had been added to that list since 2013, however, as the bloc has shied away from angering Iran in the hope of safeguarding a nuclear accord Tehran signed with world powers in 2015. Those talks have now stalled.

It currently has an array of sanctions on about 90 Iranian individuals which have been renewed annually every April.

"The Iranian authorities must immediately end their brutal treatment of demonstrators," Annalena Baerbock told the Bundestag parliament on Thursday, calling for investigations into the deaths of Amini and those protesting her death.

She said she would do everything within the EU framework to reach the point of imposing sanctions against those responsible for oppressing women in Iran.

The United States on Sept. 22 imposed sanctions on Iran's morality police over allegations of abuse of Iranian women, saying it held the unit responsible for the death of a 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

Amini, a Kurdish woman, was arrested by the morality police in Tehran for wearing "unsuitable attire" and fell into a coma while in detention. The authorities have said they would investigate the cause of her death.

France's foreign ministry hinted on Monday that it would back sanctions, saying in a statement that Paris was examining the available options for the bloc to react in the face of "new massive abuses on women's rights and human rights in Iran".

"The European Union will continue to consider all the options at its disposal ahead of the next Foreign Affairs Council, to address the killing of Mahsa Amini and the way Iranian security forces have responded to the ensuing demonstrations," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement, referring to a mid-October ministerial meeting.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said on Wednesday that Amini's death had "saddened" everyone in the Islamic Republic, but warned that "chaos" would not be accepted amid spreading violent protests. read more

Iranian officials say 41 people, including members of the police and a pro-government militia, have died in protests across the country. But Iranian human rights groups have reported a higher toll.

Reporting by John Irish, Rachel More and Andreas Rinke; writing by John Irish editing by Paul Carrel and Philippa Fletcher

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