U.S. State Dept Blacklists Two Iranian Officials over Human Rights Violations

WASHINGTON, March 9 (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department on Tuesday blacklisted two Iranian government interrogators, accusing them of torture and other human rights violations, in what appeared to be the first such action against Tehran under the Biden administration.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement accused the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) interrogators of gross violations of human rights, including “torture and/or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment” of political prisoners and people detained in 2019 and 2020 protests in Iran.

The Biden administration chose to take the action despite its efforts to coax Iran into negotiations over the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that former President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018, dramatically increasing tensions with Tehran.

“We will continue to consider all appropriate tools to impose costs on those responsible for human rights violations and abuses in Iran,” Blinken said.

The move bars Ali Hemmatian and Masoud Safdari, as well as their immediate family members, from entering the United States.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a news briefing that the United States can both pursue its interests in barring Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon while also making clear that there will be consequences for violations of human rights.

Biden’s administration has said it is ready to talk to Iran about both nations resuming compliance with the nuclear deal, but the parties cannot agree who should make the first move.

Iran says the United States must lift sanctions, while Washington says Tehran must first return to compliance with the deal, which Iran has been progressively breaching since 2019.

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis, Humeyra Pamuk and Arshad Mohammed Editing by Chris Reese and Sonya Hepinstall)

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