Syrian forces kill 1 during raid on eastern towns

Activists: Dozens arrested as 20 tanks enter Mayadeen, Alburhama; EU could threaten oil sanctions on Damascus as result of violence.

August 24, 2011 19:17
2 minute read.
Syrian soldiers man tank (illustrative)

Syrian Tank 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

AMMAN - Syrian forces killed one person and arrested dozens in raids on an eastern tribal region on Wednesday as part of a crackdown on dissents which could lead to European Union oil sanctions on Damascus as early as next week.

A force of more than 20 tanks and other armored vehicles entered neighborhoods in the town of Mayadeen and nearby village of Alburhama before withdrawing, activists said.

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Editorial: Syria’s crackdown
Column One: Syria’s rival hegemons

"They are mainly hit-and-run raids. The military is trying to avoid reprisals from the population, which is heavily armed. So they go in quickly to arrest people, sabotaging houses of wanted activists they cannot find," an activist said by phone.

An oil embargo would constitute a major step for the European Union, where several governments have been reluctant so far to target Assad's oil industry because of concerns over potential damage to their commercial interests.

It would also cut off a major source of foreign currency for Syria, which exports over a third of its 385,000 barrels per day oil output to Europe -- mainly the Netherlands, Italy, France and Spain -- accounting for the bulk of its oil exports.

"The whole process could be completed by the end of next week if all goes according to plan," the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

After the apparent collapse of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's rule in the face of rebels backed by NATO air strikes, Western nations may be encouraged to step up moves against Assad.

No state has proposed military intervention in Syria, but France said it wanted more pressure on Damascus and the Gulf Arab state of Qatar called for an end to the violence, in which the United Nations says 2,200 people have been killed.

The Arab League said it would hold an urgent meeting on Saturday to discuss Syria.

The moves came a day after Western nations circulated a draft resolution at the United Nations calling for sanctions against Assad, members of his family and associates.

The resolution -- drafted by Britain, France, Germany, Portugal and the United States -- calls for freezing financial assets of Assad and 22 other Syrians. The resolution, obtained by Reuters, also calls for a ban on weapons sales to Syria.

But Russia, a major arms supplier to Syria which has veto power over UN resolutions, said it was not time for sanctions on Damascus. China, South Africa, Brazil and India also have indicated they would have trouble supporting punitive measures.

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