US ups pressure on Syria's Assad; EU prepares sanctions

EU ministers say they're preparing to expand restrictive measures aimed at changing Syrian policy; US: "We want action, not words."

June 20, 2011 20:36
2 minute read.
European Union ministers in Luxembourg

European Union ministers in Luxembourg 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Francois Lenoir )

The European Union on Monday said it was preparing to expand its sanctions on Syria in response to worsening violence against opponents of the government.

"The EU is actively preparing to expand its restrictive measures by additional designations with a view to achieving a fundamental change of policy by the Syrian leadership without delay," a statement agreed by EU foreign ministers said. EU diplomats said they expected a decision to expand the sanctions later in the week.

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The United States also stepped up its rhetoric on Monday, saying it wanted to see "action, not words" from Syrian President Bashar Assad, who pledged political reforms within months.

"Bashar Assad has been making promises to his people for years, for weeks. What's important now is action, not words," US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

She also dismissed Assad blaming saboteurs for the unrest.

"With regard to Bashar Assad's allegation that what's going on in his country is the result of foreign instigators, we're just not buying it," Nuland said.

She said the Syrian people continue to protest, which shows that "for them his words are not enough."

While European and US officials began taking a harsher tone with Syria, Defense Minister Ehud Barak predicted that Syrian President Bashar Assad "has crossed the point of no return" and will stay in power only "for another quarter or two" as a result of the violent crackdown against anti-government demonstrators, he said in an Associated Press interview Monday.

"It's my personal judgment that Bashar Assad crossed the point of no return towards his demise," Barak said.

"[Assad] ended up using too much brutal force, too many graves have been dug and he lost practically his legitimacy in the eyes of the Syrian people," Barak continued. "He probably will stay around for another quarter or two but that will not change his fate."

Barak spoke following the opening of the Israeli section at the Paris Air Show.

Earlier Monday, Assad addressed his nation for the third time since the uprising began, saying  an international conspiracy of saboteurs and extremists is to blame for the chaos that has gripped Syria during the three-month anti-regime upheaval.

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