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Middle east

EU steps up Syrian sanctions with oil embargo

©

Video by Luke SHRAGO

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-09-02

The EU agreed to impose sanctions on Syrian oil exports on Friday as part of a bid to intensify pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to end a deadly crackdown on anti-government protests that have gripped the country since March.

REUTERS - The European Union agreed to impose sanctions on Syrian oil exports on Friday, escalating pressure on President Bashar al-Assad as protesters across Syria vowed to choose “death rather than humiliation”.

“The sanctions have been agreed,” an official said in the Polish resort of Sopot where EU foreign ministers were meeting, adding they had also added four people and three entities to the EU sanctions list against Syria.
 
As the EU tightened the economic screw on Assad, demonstrations broke out across Syria, with larger numbers in rural regions to circumvent heavy troops and army presence in urban areas, activists and residents said.
 
They reported security forces shooting at several protests, including in the Damascus suburbs, the central city of Hama, and the restive provinces of Idlib and Deraa, but had no immediate word on casualties.
 
“Death rather than humiliation!” chanted protesters in the village Kfra Zita in rural Hama, according to a YouTube video released by residents.
 
“Oh mother, Bashar is in his last days,” chanted a crowd in the town of Kfar Nubbul in northern Idlib province, carrying a banner that compared the modest international response to Syria’s uprising compared to interventions in major oil states.
 
“We don’t have oil like Iraq or Libya, don’t we deserve to live?” it said.
 
The weekly protests after the main Friday prayers have become a feature of the five-month uprising against Assad.
 
“Massacres” in Syria
 
The EU has already banned Europeans from doing business with dozens of Syrian officials, government institutions and military-linked firms it says are tied to the violent repression of the protests.
 
Friday’s steps are the first time the EU will target Syrian industry but analysts say the sanctions, which do not go as far as the investment ban imposed by the United States last month, may have only a limited impact on Assad’s access to funds.
 
While EU sanctions will interrupt a major source of foreign currency for Syria, as most of its oil exports are sold to Europe, analysts say Damascus should be able to find new markets in Asia for its crude, even if it has to offer a discount and may take time to agree contracts
 
France said it was pushing for a United Nations Security Council resolution that sets up sanctions against Syria—something which veto-wielding council members Russia and China have so far resisted.
 
“President Assad is carrying out massacres in his own country,” Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski said in the Polish resort of Sopot.
 
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also urged European and other countries on Thursday to impose more sanctions on Assad’s government, saying more pressure was needed to force him to step down.
 
No Middle Eastern country has followed the U.S. and EU lead in calling for Assad to stand aside, and British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Friday that Arab nations were less willing to act than they were in the case of Libya.
 
But he said that during conversations with Arab leaders at a meeting in France to discuss Libya after Muammar Gaddafi’s fall, he detected a hardening line against Assad.
 
“I think they are toughening their stance because they realise that what he is doing is appalling,” Cameron told the British Broadcasting Corporation.
 
“They realise that he had his chance to demonstrate he was in favour of reform and he has completely failed to do that.”
 
The protests have failed to unseat Assad, who inherited power from his father and retains the loyalty of the core of his armed forces comprised mostly of members of the Alawite minority, the same sect as the president.
 
Last month he sent the army into several cities to crush dissent. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 473 people were killed, 360 civilians and 113 from the security forces.
 
Despite the repression, demonstrators have been encouraged by Gaddafi’s fall and the rising international pressure on Syria, including Friday’s EU sanctions.

 

Date created : 2011-09-02

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