April 20, 2024

Syrian Leader Hit With European Sanctions

Separately, European Union foreign ministers also expanded sanctions against Iran by placing restrictions on more than 100 companies or entities linked to the country’s nuclear program. Several more Iranian officials were added to the visa ban and asset freeze list, though names were not released Monday.

Earlier in May the European Union announced a weapons embargo against Syria and visa bans and asset freezes on 13 senior Syrian officials, but left Mr. Assad’s name off the list. At the time, Cyprus led calls within the European Union to keep lines of communication open to the leadership in Syria.

However, European ministers said that the new steps were made inevitable by the continued violence in Syria, where as many as 900 people have been killed in more than two months of protests, activists say.

The unrest has presented the most serious challenge yet to Mr. Assad, who came to power in 2000, inheriting the presidency from his father, Hafez al-Assad, who governed for three decades.

Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief, said that the message to the Syrian government was “to stop the violence and respect human rights.” Ms. Ashton added that 10 other Syrian names had been added to the sanctions list, though they have not yet been identified publicly.

But she did not call directly on Mr. Assad to resign. “It is for the people to decide the future and the government,” she argued.

Though the practical impact on Mr. Assad might be limited, the step is an important, symbolic one, increasing the Syrian president’s international isolation.

Syria has deeper ties with Europe than with the United States, as a place of investment and travel, and some officials had viewed European countries as friendlier than the United States.

Still, an official from the governing Baath Party in Syria, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, dismissed the European sanctions, saying that they would have no effect.

“Syrian officials have no bank accounts or properties in Europe,” the official said in Damascus. “If they prevent us from going to Europe, the Europeans themselves will come to us and beg for our help in Iraq, Lebanon and the peace process.”

The Syrian authorities, meanwhile, canceled a demonstration scheduled for Monday that they had previously approved, the first since the leadership moved last month to end the draconian emergency law, which had been in effect for 48 years.

Regarding Iran, the expansion of sanctions is the latest step to try to increase pressure on the government, which is suspected of trying to develop atomic weapons under the cover of its declared civilian nuclear energy program. The government in Tehran asserts that it is developing nuclear power to meet growing domestic demand for energy.

The European Union ministers also added 13 more officials from Belarus to their sanctions list in protest of the crackdown on opposition parties there, which included the recent jailing of Andrei Sannikov, an important opposition figure.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/24/world/europe/24sanctions.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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