BRUSSELS (AFP) - EU foreign ministers strengthened sanctions against Iran on Monday for ‘serious human rights violations’, adding new names to a list of Iranians targeted by a visa ban and asset freeze.

The ministers renewed existing European Union sanctions for another 12 months while adding nine new names to the blacklist, bringing to 87 the total number of people subject to an EU travel ban and asset freeze. The names of those on the new list of sanctions, which will be valid until April 13 next year, will be published in the EU Official Journal on Tuesday.

Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore, whose country currently holds the rotating EU chairmanship, said last month "we cannot remain silent in the face of violent oppression of dissent, as well as detention and execution without fair trial".

He also decried discrimination against women and members of ethnic and religious minorities while highlighting Iran's record for harassing and arresting human rights campaigners, including lawyers defending political prisoners and their families.

The sanctions for rights abuse are separate from those linked to concerns over Iran's contested nuclear drive.

A total of 490 companies and 105 people are currently targeted by the asset freeze and travel ban under those sanctions, which also include tough restrictions on trade and financial dealings, as well as an oil embargo.