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French satellite group cuts Iran channels over sanctions

PARIS/DUBAI (Reuters) - One of Europe's leading satellite providers said it had taken Iranian state television and radio channels off the air to comply with tougher European Union sanctions on the Islamic state.

Iranian officials said the move by Paris-based Eutelsat was illegal and against the West's own principles of free speech, state media reported on Tuesday.

The Eutelsat decision hit 19 channels provided by Iran's state broadcasting network (IRIB) including English-language Press TV - used by Tehran to broadcast its news and views beyond the country's borders.

Eutelsat, which broadcasts across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said on its website the shut-down was based on "reinforced EU Council sanctions".

It also cited a decision by France's broadcasting authority that IRIB's Sahar 1 television channel should be switched off because of anti-Semitic broadcasts.

The move came weeks after Eutelsat complained to international regulators saying Iran had jammed satellite signals from Persian-language channels broadcast by the BBC, Voice of America and other operators.

Iran's Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Mohammad Hosseini said the shut-down was illegal and "a clear violation of the West's claim for supporting freedom of speech and information," the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA) reported.

The European Union stepped up sanctions on Iran's banking, shipping, and industrial sectors on Monday over Tehran's disputed nuclear program which the West fears is aimed at producing nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the charge.

(Reporting by Zahra Hosseinian; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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