EU tightens sanctions against Syrian president, Iran

European foreign ministers to meet in Brussels to discuss sanctions on Assad after US passes similar sanctions on Syrian leader.

By REUTERS, EJP
May 23, 2011 11:44
2 minute read.
Assad

Assad 311 reuters. (photo credit: reuters)

 
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BRUSSELS - The European Union tightened sanctions against Syria by imposing restrictions on Syrian President Bashar Assad on Monday, raising pressure on his government to end violence against protesters, EU diplomats said.

EU foreign ministers agreed at a meeting in Brussels to add several Syrian officials, including Assad, to a list people affected by EU travel restrictions and asset freezes.

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"Technically, the legal act has been accepted," one EU diplomat said, but he added that EU foreign ministers would still discuss the move at the meeting on Monday.

The European Union also significantly expanded its sanctions against Iran on Monday, reflecting mounting frustration over a lack of progress in nuclear talks with Tehran, EU diplomats said.

EU foreign ministers agreed to add about 100 new entities to a list of companies and people affected by EU sanctions, such as asset freezes.

"It's been adopted," one EU diplomat said.

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As for Assad, The United States imposed sanctions on the Syrian president and six senior officials last Wednesday in an escalation of pressure on his government to halt its bloody crackdown on protesters.

An official source on Syrian state television said the sanctions were targeting the Syrian people and served Israeli interests. "The sanctions have not and will not affect Syria's independent will," the source was quoted as saying.

Two weeks ago the EU stopped short of including Assad on the list, with some EU states arguing that putting sanctions on the Syrian president could make it harder to encourage change in the country.

The EU source said that there is now a clear majority for putting the Syrian president on the list.

A French foreign ministry spokesperson said on Friday that France wanted a "conclusive" outcome from the EU meeting on Monday.

Bernard Valero said that his government continued to be deeply concerned by the ongoing violence in Syria and he urged Damascus to halt repression, allow press coverage of events there, release political detainees and prevent torture and firing on demonstrators by security forces.

"This is unacceptable," he said, adding "the media must be able to work." He also called for an end to violence, arrests and repression in Syria.

"The violence, arrests and torture must stop immediately," he affirmed.

There has been so much criticism from the European Parliament and the media for not having put Assad on the sanctions list immediately.

"We have been calling on the High Representative (EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton) for several weeks now to get agreement on tough and targeted sanctions on the Syrian leadership and not just on second tier officials,” said this week Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the Liberal group at the European Parliament.

"Now that the Americans have shown some decisiveness in bringing increased pressure on those responsible in Damascus for the crackdown which has led to over 800 deaths so far, the European Union must reinforce the message on Assad that the international community stands united and holds him personally responsible for the violence and deaths of civilians involved in the demonstrations."

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