EU 'Very' Worried about Freedom of Religion in Iran

PARIS (AP) - The European Union said Friday it is "very worried" about what it sees as a deterioration of religious freedom in Iran.

A statement from the French Foreign Ministry on behalf of the EU says pressure has increased on religious minorities in the Islamic Republic in recent months, with arrests in the Christian and Baha'i communities. France currently holds the EU presidency.

The statement Friday also said that religious minorities, including Sufi and Sunni Muslims, undergo "regular persecution" such as the confiscation of their property, profanation of their prayer spaces and violence.

The EU says it also is concerned about the possibility the Iranian parliament could pass a bill to make apostasy a crime punishable by death.

A staff member at the Iranian Embassy in Paris said no one was immediately available for comment on Friday.

The EU statement came five days after the French ambassador in Tehran, Bernard Poletti, was summoned by Iran's Foreign Ministry for what Iran said was an increase of anti-Islam sentiment in Europe. However, the official Iranian media reported the summons did not specify on what that allegation was based.