Ban Ki-moon: Syria's Assad running low on credibility

UN Secretary-General questions likelihood behind Syrian president's promise for reform; EU agrees to extend Syria curbs to include Iranians.

Ban Ki-Moon 311 Reuters (photo credit: REUTERS)
Ban Ki-Moon 311 Reuters
(photo credit: REUTERS)
UNITED NATIONS - Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has pledged to reform the country and engage in a dialogue with demonstrators, is running low on credibility, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Wednesday.
"I do not see much credibility (in) what he has been saying, because the situation has been continuing like this way, and how long should the situation be going (on in) this way," Ban told reporters when asked how credible he considered Assad's pledges of reform and other statements to be.RELATED:
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The remarks from Ban, who was unanimously re-elected to a second five-year term as UN secretary-general on Tuesday effective in January 2012, were his strongest criticism to date of the Damascus government, which has blamed armed gangs for the violence in Syria.
Ban said he took note "in a positive way" of Assad's announcement of a general amnesty and a promise of reforms and national dialogue in a speech on Monday, only the Syrian president's third since the outbreak of protests in which rights groups say 1,300 civilians have been killed.
But he added that any measures Assad takes "should lead to genuinely inclusive dialogue."
Many Syrians and world leaders dismissed Assad's pledges as inadequate. Violence continued on Tuesday with the killing of seven people by gunmen in two cities during rival protests by Assad loyalists and opponents, an opposition activist said.
Britain and France have pushed the 15-nation U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution condemning the violence, but Russia and China have suggested they might use their veto powers to block it.
EU agrees to extend Syria curbs to include Iranians
Earlier Wednesday, EU states reached a political agreement to extend sanctions against Syria to four military-linked entities and seven individuals, including three Iranians, linked to suppression of dissent, EU diplomats said.
In May, the European Union added Assad and other senior officials to a list of Syrians banned from traveling to the EU and subject to asset freezes.
"There is a political agreement on extending the list," an EU diplomat said, adding that the new sanctions would take effect on Friday, once all 27 EU states have written on Thursday to give their formal approval.
The new sanctions list was drawn up by Britain and France and would bring the total number of individuals and entities targeted by EU sanctions on Syria to 34.
The diplomat said the Iranians were involved in providing equipment and support to help suppression of dissent in Syria, in which rights groups say 1,300 civilians have been killed.
"We welcome the inclusion of three Iranian names in the extended round of sanctions on the Syrian regime," a British government spokesman said.
"This sends a clear message to the government of Iran that its provision of equipment and technical advice to help the Syrian regime quash protests is unacceptable."
The move follows a speech by Syrian President Bashar Assad in which he promised reforms to address a wave of protests against his rule, but which opponents said did not meet popular demands for sweeping political change and the European Union called "disappointing".
On Wednesday, Syria scorned the EU dismissal of Assad's reform promises, saying it showed Europe wanted to sow chaos in the country. It threatened to turn to other regions for trade and support.
In a statement on Monday, EU foreign ministers condemned "in the strongest terms the worsening violence in Syria".
While calling on demonstrators to maintain the peaceful nature of their protests, the EU urged the Syrian authorities to launch a national dialogue and meaningful political reforms.