European Union flag
European Union flag iStock

The European Union on Tuesday froze the assets of an Iranian intelligence unit and two of its staff, as the Netherlands accused Iran of two killings on its soil and joined France and Denmark in alleging Teheran plotted other attacks in Europe, Reuters reports.

The move, although in part symbolic since one of the men is in prison in Belgium, marks the first time the EU has enacted sanctions on Iran since lifting a host of sanctions three years ago following the 2015 nuclear deal.

The decision, which includes designating the unit and the two Iranians as terrorists, follows last year's disclosure by Denmark and France that they suspected an Iranian government intelligence service of pursuing assassination plots on their soil.

Denmark announced in November that it had recalled its ambassador to Iran, after it accused Tehran of plotting to assassinate three Iranian nationals residing in Denmark.

The announcement came after the head of Denmark's intelligence service said his agency believed the Iranian intelligence service "was planning an attack in Denmark" against three Iranians suspected of belonging to the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz, which is one of the groups to have claimed an attack on a military parade in Ahvaz in southwestern Iran in September.

Iran denied being involved in a plot to carry out attacks in Denmark and accused the “Zionist regime” of trying to torpedo Tehran’s relations with the European Union.

Copenhagen on Tuesday said it sought an EU-wide response to Iran’s actions.

"EU just agreed to enact sanctions against an Iranian Intelligence Service for its assassination plots on European soil. Strong signal from the EU that we will not accept such behavior in Europe," Denmark's Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said on Twitter.

France, which has already hit the two men and the ministry unit with sanctions, has said there was no doubt the Iranian intelligence ministry was behind a failed attack near Paris.

On Tuesday, the Dutch government publicly accused Iran of the plots, as well as two killings in 2015 and 2017, sending a letter to parliament to warn of further economic sanctions if Teheran did not cooperate with European investigations.

The letter signed by the Dutch foreign and interior ministers said Britain, France, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium met Iranian officials to convey "their serious concerns regarding Iran's probable involvement in these hostile acts on EU territory."

Iran again denied involvement in the plots in France and Denmark.

“Accusing Iran won’t absolve Europe of responsibility for harboring terrorists,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote in a tweet, according to Reuters.

“Europeans, incl(uding) Denmark, Holland and France, harbor MEK,” he added, referring to the exiled Iranian opposition group Mujaheedin-e Khalq.

The sanctions come even as the EU has been trying to save the 2015 nuclear deal, from which US President Donald Trump withdrew last May.

The European Union has vowed to help Iran evade the economic sanctions imposed by the US, shielding companies doing business with the rogue state in an effort to preserve the Iran nuclear deal.

Iran has warned it could leave the nuclear deal if EU powers do not protect its trade and financial benefits.