PARIS, Nov 12 (Reuters) – Two more French citizens are being held in Iran, taking the total of its nationals detained there to seven, France’s foreign minister said in remarks published on Saturday, a further sign of deteriorating ties between the two countries.
France lashed out at Iran on Oct. 6, accusing it of “dictatorial practices” and taking its citizens hostage after a video was aired in which a French couple appeared to confess to spying, after weeks of unrest that Iran has linked to foreign foes.
“We have concerns over two other citizens and from our latest checks the result is they are being detained,” Catherine Colonna told Le Parisien newspaper in an interview.
On Friday, Le Figaro newspaper reported that the two nationals had been arrested prior to the start of anti-government protests in September over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.
A foreign ministry spokesperson confirmed that two additional French citizens were being held, but declined to give further details.
Ties between France and Iran have deteriorated in recent months as efforts to revive nuclear talks in which France is one of the parties have stalled.
Neither country had an ambassador in place until last week when France’s dispatched a new envoy to Iran.
The protests over Amini’s death while she was in police custody have pushed the EU to follow the United States, Canada and Britain in imposing sanctions on Iran.
A new round of EU sanctions on human rights will be approved at a foreign ministers’ meeting on Monday, two diplomats told Reuters.
The sanctions would see 31 designations for human rights violations that would target individuals and entities covering asset bans and travel freezes, they said.
France has also proposed new designations for those who sell drones to Iran and to sanction people involved in the export of electronic components for drones, one of the diplomats said.
“If its (Iran’s) objective is to blackmail us, then this is the wrong way to go about dealing with France,” Colonna said.
(Reporting by John Irish; editing by Clelia Oziel and David Evans)