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EU imposes more sanctions on Syrian officials

As Ramadan begins, the EU freezes the assets of five more high-level Syrians and the army mounts another attack on Hama.

At a rally supporting President Assad in Beirut, a little boy wears the slogan
At a rally supporting President Assad in Beirut, a little boy wears the slogan "Syria is protected by God".
Image: Bilal Hussein/AP/Press Association Images

THE EUROPEAN UNION has expanded its sanctions against Syria, as the army attacks Hama again, killing at least four.

The EU is imposing asset freezes and travel bans on five more military and government officials bringing to 35 the number of individuals Europe’s targeting, including President Bashar Assad. Four government entities are also on the list.

It comes as the city of Hama comes under attack for a second time – more than 100 people are reported by RTÉ to have been killed there yesterday.

The EU accused President Assad’s forces of an indiscriminate massacre of civilians in Hama.

The United Nations Security Council is to meet on the matter today, in an emergency session thought to have been requested by Germany.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton condemned Syria’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, a day after one of the bloodiest since the uprising against Assad’s authoritarian rule began.

The Huffington Post writes that activists have called for Ramadan to be like ‘a month of 30 Fridays’, referring to the traditional day of prayer — and the day on which most protests have taken place.

Violence

Syrian rights groups say 74 people were killed throughout the country, 55 of them from Hama and neighbouring villages.

More than 1,600 civilians have been killed in a crackdown on largely peaceful protests since a popular uprising began in Syria in mid-March.

Attacks by the security forces showed that the leadership was “unwilling to implement the reforms it has promised in response to the legitimate requests of the Syrian people,” Ashton said.

The European Union also has an embargo on sales of arms and equipment that can be used to suppress demonstrations.

“I wish to remind the Syrian authorities of their responsibility to protect the population,” Ashton said. “The brutal violence creates a serious risk of escalating tension and factional divisions and is not consistent with broad reforms.”

The EU said it would release the names of the new officials added to the list on Tuesday.

Pressure

“We are keeping the situation under constant review and we will continue with this policy of putting pressure — economic pressure and political pressure — on the Syrian regime,” EU spokesman Michael Mann said.

France too said political, military and security officials in Syria will be held accountable for their acts.

Syria’s expected to top of the agenda at an informal EU Foreign Ministers meeting next month.

Opposition to UN resolution

Russia, China and other Security Council members have so far opposed resolutions condemning Damascus for its crackdown on protesters, partly because they fear that it may be used as a pretext for armed intervention against Syria.

They say a resolution allowing the use of all means to protect the civilian population in Libya has been misused by NATO to justify five months of air-strikes against Muammar Gadaffi’s regime.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, also called for tougher sanctions against Assad’s government, but cautioned that military action was “not a remote possibility.” He said such sanctions had to come from both Western nations, and Arab countries and regional powers like Turkey.

Speaking on the BBC, Hague said the attacks were “all the more shocking” for the fact that they fell on the eve of the Muslim holy month of fasting.

US President Barack Obama issued a statement yesterday, saying he was “appalled” by the violence and brutality the Syrian government has aimed at its own people, and calling the reports from Hama “horrifying.”

Obama said the United States will continue to increase pressure on the Syrian regime.

- Additional reporting by AP

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