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Europe

EU imposes assets freeze and travel ban on Assad family

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Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-03-23

EU foreign ministers on Friday imposed a travel ban and assets freeze on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's wife Asma (pictured), as well as on his mother and sister, in a new round of sanctions aimed at ending the country's violent conflict.

AFP - The European Union took aim at Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's family on Friday, targeting his wife, mother and sister in fresh sanctions aimed at ending months of relentless brutality.

Tightening the noose as government forces bombed towns and clashed with rebels in several parts of Syria, EU foreign ministers reiterated a plea for Assad to "step aside to allow for a peaceful and democratic transition."

In a new round of sanctions, the EU's 13th to date in less than a year, the ministers slapped a travel ban and assets freeze on Assad's glamorous British-born wife Asma, his mother Anisa Makhlouf, his sister and sister-in-law.

The four were among 12 people and two oil companies added to an existing EU blacklist now totalling 126 people and 41 firms or utilities.

The names of those targeted will be listed in the EU Official Journal Saturday, when the sanctions take effect.

"The repression has reached totally unacceptable levels of violence and must stop immediately," said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. "Today's decisions aim to weaken the regime's resources and its ability to conduct its brutal campaign."

The United States called the sanctions "a very good step".

"It sends a strong message that those close to Assad himself will also face the pressure," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nulan.

She added that Washington was seeing "what more we can do" to pressure the Syrian leader.

Assad himself was targeted by the EU in May last year, along with his younger brother Maher.

"It's a sign of the determination of all the nations of the European Union and of the European Union as a whole to intensify the pressure, the diplomatic and economic stranglehold on this regime," said British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

The close-to-home sanctions came amid some hope of a breakthrough after even Russia and China signed on to a UN Security Council statement this week urging Assad and his foes to accept a plan proposed by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

"Everybody has to know, the regime, the entourage of the regime, the clan of the regime, that we are being serious," said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. "The clan of the regime of Assad has to be included."

The measures aimed to send "a very powerful signal to everyone in the regime that the killing has to stop, the violence has to stop, there has to be dialogue, there has to be a political process," said Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt.

"That is the only way to prevent the country from descending into sectarian civil war that would have devastating consequences."

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe quoted Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davotoglu -- who attended the EU ministerial talks -- as stating that up to 75,000 Syrians, including Alawites, had sought refuge across the border in Turkey.

A Sunni Muslim who originally hails from Homs, Syria's British-born first lady is the daughter of a heart specialist and a diplomat.

The stylish Western-educated former investment banker not so long ago was described by Vogue as a "rose in the desert". She has since been likened to a modern-day Marie-Antoinette.

It was widely believed her grounding in Western values would give the regime a more human face and shatter the isolation of the secretive Assad family.

But she became the focus of sharp criticism this month when Britain's Guardian newspaper released e-mails showing the ruling couple shopping for luxury goods as the country slid into bloody chaos.

Hague said the stylish mother of three -- known for a love of Chanel outfits and Christian Louboutin shoes -- cannot be barred entry to Britain despite Friday's EU travel ban but is not expected to head there.

"British passport holders do obviously have a right of entry to the United Kingdom," Hague said.

"But given that we are imposing an asset freeze on all of these individuals and a travel ban on other members of the same family and the regime, we are not expecting Mrs Assad to try to travel to the United Kingdom at the moment."

Sweden's Bildt asked, "Wouldn't that be a good thing for her to leave the country?"

"I'm not interfering with her travel schedule in any sort of way," he added. "We have said that the president ought to step aside and that might imply the wife as well."

Date created : 2012-03-23

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