Iran, EU hold talks amid push to impose sanctions over crackdown on protests

European Union mulls sanctions on Iran over Mahsa Amini's death in police custody.

Iran, EU hold talks amid push to impose sanctions over crackdown on protests

Iran's foreign minister held talks over the phone late Friday with the European Union foreign policy chief, with discussions centered mainly on the ongoing protests in Iran.

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told Josep Borrell that death of Mahsa Amini in police custody was a "cause of regret for all", adding that the issue has become an "excuse" for some Western officials to criticize Iran, as per a statement issued by the Iranian Foreign Ministry on Saturday.

Amini, 22, died last month after being detained by Iran's morality police for wearing "inappropriate dress". While her family alleged foul play in her tragic death, Iranian officials have repeatedly rejected the claim.

The incident, which has generated ripples of anger and outrage across Iran with massive street demonstrations, has also drawn condemnations from Western countries.

The government has not yet announced the official casualty toll in the protests that first erupted in Amini's hometown of Sanandaj in western Iran before spreading to other cities, but independent groups have put the death toll at more than 100.

Human rights groups have accused Iranian police of using unbridled force against protesters, but Iranian authorities blame Western powers of "instigating riots" in the country.

In their phone talk, Iran's top diplomat told his EU counterpart that a forensic report by specialized experts on Amini's death has already been released and the judicial investigation is also currently underway.

He accused the Western countries, in particular the US and Canada, of human rights abuses and police excesses, the statement noted, adding that confrontation with rioters in Europe is deemed legitimate but the same is seen as "repression" in Iran.

The statement cited Borrell as saying that the European Union "does not intend to interfere" in Iran's internal affairs.

The simmering protests over Amini's death have prompted the EU to impose sanctions on Iran, following the line adopted by the US, Canada and Britain.

Last week, Amir-Abdollahian in a phone call with his French counterpart Catherine Colonna had objected to what he called Europe's "interference" in Iran's internal affairs, warning of "countermeasures" if the EU imposes bans on the country.

It came after the French foreign minister confirmed that five French nationals were held in Iran and said the EU has agreed on technical aspects of imposing sanctions on those "involved in the repression".

The European Parliament also adopted a resolution recently that called for an "impartial and independent" probe into Amini's death, and condemned what it termed "widespread and disproportionate use of force by Iranian security forces" against protesters.

The issue is likely to come up during the meeting of EU foreign ministers this week. Last time the bloc agreed to impose human rights-related sanctions on Iran was in 2021.

Meanwhile, Canada on Thursday announced additional sanctions against Iranian officials, building upon the ones announced on October 3.

The new sanctions package targeted 17 individuals and 3 entities, including a senior judicial prosecutor, army brigadier, senior journalist, former foreign minister and former speaker, among others.

It came days after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced plans to bar about 10,000 members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from entering Canada.