WASHINGTON - The United States should blacklist 65 Iranian officials, following the lead of the European Union which has already sanctioned them for human rights abuses, a group of US senators told President Barack Obama on Thursday.

The letter, signed by Republican senators Mark Kirk and Jon Kyl, and Senator Joseph Lieberman, an independent, is the latest push by members of the US Congress to try to urge the administration to take a harder line on Tehran.

"Artists, students, activists, human rights defenders and those seeking freedom of speech and religion are increasingly persecuted, imprisoned and tortured" by Iranian government officials, the senators told Obama.

The EU has blacklisted a total of 77 Iranian officials, the senators said, noting the United States has designated only 12 of the individuals for sanctions.

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