Thursday, December 1, 2011

EU-US impose new sanctions on Syria as death toll rises


Europe and the United States tightened economic sanctions on Syria today, ramping up international pressure as the UN said more than 4,000 people have died in a crackdown on dissidents.

The violence on the ground spread, and a Syrian human rights group said troops raided towns and villages in the flashpoint provinces of Homs, Hama, and Daraa, killing 16 civilians and detaining at least two dozen others.

At least 4,000 people have now died since anti-government protests broke out in mid-March, UN rights chief Navi Pillay said, warning the real toll could be grimmer still as "the information coming to us is that it's much more."

EU foreign ministers met Arab League secretary general Nabil al-Arabi over lunch in Brussels in a bid to show a united front against President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on protestors.The ministers agreed to work with the League as it implements unprecedented sanctions against Assad's regime.

They believe that this could have a strong effect on the regime. They are continuing to put the pressure on, we are very keen to support their leadership on that," EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said after the talks.

Protests in Syria. APFor his part, Arabi rejected "any accusation that the Arab League is inviting any intervention" in Syria after Damascus accused members of the pan-Arab organisation of pushing for an "internationalisation" of the unrest.

The EU slapped a 10th round of sanctions on the regime, adding bans on exporting gas and oil industry equipment to Syria and trading Syrian government bonds in an effort to choke off funding.

The EU will refrain from offering Syria loans at lower rates and longer grace periods than offered on commercial markets, while European firms are barred from selling software that could be used to monitor Internet and telephone communications.

The EU added 12 individuals and 11 entities to a blacklist of people and companies hit by assets freezes and travel bans, diplomats said.

All this shows, that we Europeans, together with the Arab League, are determined to act against this cruelty and repression," said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

Renewing a call for Assad to step aside for a democratic transition, the EU ministers warned in a statement that the violent repression risked taking Syria down "a very dangerous path of violence, sectarian clashes and militarisation."

In Washington, the United States slapped economic sanctions on a top Syrian general and an uncle of Assad

identified by the Treasury Department as a key financial advisor to the Syrian president

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