EU sanctions five Iranians over Saudi ambassador plot; Ashton says Iran nuclear talks could resume soon


The European Union on Friday targeted five Iranians with anti-terrorist sanctions relating to an alleged failed bid to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in the United States, as major powers expressed willingness to meet with Iran if Tehran was prepared to “engage seriously in meaningful discussions” over its nuclear program.

“Following the foiled plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., the Council today subjected five persons to EU restrictive measures aimed at combating terrorism,” the EU said in a statement.

Diplomats said the five were all of Iranian origin, according to AFP.

The EU statement did not name those targeted or state their nationalities but said “their financial assets in the EU will be frozen and that no funds may be made available to them.”

Diplomats named the five as Manssor Arbabsiar, who is in custody in the United States, Gholam Shakuri, who has been indicted in New York but is at large, Qasem Slaimani, Hamed Abdollahi and Abdul Reza Shahlai.

A grand jury in New York on Thursday indicted Arbabsiar and Shakuri with plotting to hire Mexican gangsters to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington.

Iran has strongly denied any involvement in what the United States says was a plot by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds force to kill the ambassador by hiring assassins from a Mexican drug cartel for $1.5 million.

Also on Friday, the European Union’s foreign policy chief said in a letter to Tehran that major powers were willing to meet with Iran within weeks if Tehran was prepared to “engage seriously in meaningful discussions” on its disputed nuclear program.

“When moving to continuation of our talks, it is crucial to look for concrete results,” Catherine Ashton said in the letter addressed to Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.

“We have to ensure that when we meet again we can make real progress on the nuclear issue so that both sides can draw concrete benefits,” said the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.

Ashton has been handling contacts with Iran on behalf of six powers, which include the United States, Britain, France and Germany as well as non-Western states Russia and China.



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