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BRUSSELS - The European Union (EU) on Friday tightened the sanctions against Iran, in response to "serious human rights violations" in the country.

According to a statement issued by the bloc's Foreign Affairs Council, EU added 17 persons responsible for serious human rights violations to the list of those subject to a travel ban and an asset freeze.

This brings the number of persons subjected to sanctions to 78. It also banned exports of equipment and software intended for use in the monitoring or interception of internet and telephone communications by the Iranian authorities.

All the EU restrictive measures are now valid until 13 April 2013.

"The EU remains deeply concerned by the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran," said EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton in her statement.

Ashton on March 6 said she had accepted an Iranian offer to discuss Tehran's disputed nuclear program. But Iran's Majlis (parliament) Speaker Ali Larijani said March 8 that future nuclear talks between Iran and the world's major powers would end without any productive result if "the West continues to put Iran under pressure".

The West accuses Iran of attempting to develop nuclear weapons, but the latter denies that and says its nuclear program is for peaceful use.

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