EU slaps more sanctions on Syria

Brussels - The European Union expanded its sanctions against Syria on Monday, imposing asset freezes and travel bans against five more military and government officials.

The EU decision brings the number of individuals targeted by the EU to 35, including President Bashar al-Assad. Four government entities are also on the list.

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 in mid-March.

Syrian rights groups said in a joint statement that 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.

Names to be released

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.

In Paris, French Foreign Ministry spokesperson Christine Fages said that political, military and security officials in Syria "must know, now more than ever, that they will have to be held accountable for their acts".

She said Syria would be atop the agenda at an informal EU Foreign Ministers meeting next month.

French government spokesperson Valerie Pecresse, after a weekly Cabinet meeting on Monday, said France was also calling on the UN Security Council to "condemn this violence" over the weekend in Syria.

Libya resolution 'misused'

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 airstrikes against Muammar Gaddafi 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" on the eve of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which started on Monday.

US President Barack Obama issued a statement Sunday 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.


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