LONDON, March 22 (UPI) -- London welcomes steps by the European Union to sanction Iranian leaders responsible for human rights violations, the British foreign secretary said.
The European Union announced Monday it would "swiftly" introduce new measures targeting Iranian officials charged with human rights violations.
EU ministers expressed "deep concern" over the repression of the Iranian people and took note of the "dramatic increase" in the number of executions and "torture" in the country.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague in a statement expressed his support for the sanctions, which he said were designed to support the cause of the Iranian people demanding more political freedoms.
"This is an important and concrete part of the international response to the serious and deteriorating human rights situation," he said.
London says Iran has executed more than 150 people so far this year. Iranian authorities released some political prisoners Monday for New Year's Day celebrations, though the status of Iranian opposition leaders Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi were unknown.
"And all the while (Tehran) claims to support freedom elsewhere in the region," Hague said.
Iran was condemned by the international community for its violent reaction to the 2009 re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iran sent military forces into the streets to quell the unrest.