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EU extends Syria sanctions as violence continues –diplomat
Violent suppression of dissent in Syria has caused EU to extend sanctions on the country. Conditions worsen with roads in Aleppo being blocked and civilian losses recorded. Reuters reports.
June 22, 2011 2:55 by Reuters
European Union states have extended sanctions against Syria to four military-linked firms and more people connected with the violent suppression of anti-government protests, an EU diplomat told Reuters.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad promised reforms within months, as he faces mounting international pressure and wider street protests against his rule despite a military crackdown that has killed more than 1,300 people.
But protesters and world leaders dismissed his pledges as inadequate and the violence continued on Tuesday with the killing of seven people by security forces during clashes in two cities between Assad loyalists and demonstrators, according to a leading activist.
The violence followed rallies organised by authorities in several cities in support of Assad, who has kept a low profile in the three months since the uprising against his 11-year rule began, inspired by popular protests across the Arab world.
ASSET FREEZES AND VISA BANS
The EU diplomat said Britain and France had prepared lists proposing to add fewer than a dozen individuals and entities to those already targeted by EU asset freezes and visa bans.
The British list also proposed sanctions against at least two Iranian individuals involved in providing equipment and support for the suppression of dissent in Syria, but one of the 27 EU member states had yet to approve this.
“The French list was approved in full, but there was a reserve on the British list by one member state,” the diplomat said.
The full list would be approved if no formal objection was raised by 0800 GMT on Wednesday. The diplomat declined to name the entities or individuals, but said they were not in Syria’s oil industry.
“They are all linked to the military and the suppression of dissent,” the diplomat said, who did not want to be identified.
In May, the European Union added Assad and other senior officials to a list of those banned from travelling to the EU and subject to asset freezes.
Activists said people were killed when army and security forces intervened on the side of Assad’s supporters in the city of Homs and the town of Mayadeen in the tribal Deir al-Zor province, 40 km (28 miles) east of the provincial capital, near the border with Iraq’s Sunni heartland.
Ammar Qurabi, head of the Syrian National Organisation for Human Rights, said Assad loyalists, known as shabbiha, shot at protesters in Homs, Hama and Mayadeen, killing at least seven civilians and wounding 10.
“It is difficult to say who started first, but the army’s armoured personnel carriers drove through the (anti-Assad) demonstration firing at people. One is confirmed killed but seven more people suffered serious wounds,” a resident of Mayadeen said.
Two residents in Homs said security forces fired at protesters who had staged a demonstration to counter a pro-Assad rally backed by secret police and ‘shabbiha’.
Witnesses in Deraa said security forces opened fire to disperse several thousand protesters in the city’s old quarter who took to the streets in reaction to a pro-government rally in the Mahatta area which they said employees and army forces in civilian clothes had been ordered to attend.
Syria has barred most international journalists, making it difficult to verify accounts from activists and officials.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said Syria had agreed to give the humanitarian agency greater access to civilians and areas caught up in the conflict.
State television showed tens of thousands of people in central Damascus waving flags and pictures of Assad who announced an amnesty for people who committed crimes up until Monday, the day of his speech. It was the second amnesty to be announced in three weeks.
After the first, authorities freed hundreds of political prisoners but rights groups say thousands still languish in jail and that hundreds more have since been arrested.
Authorities say more than 200 police and security forces have been killed by armed gangs.
Activists said that public workers were required to take part in the pro-Assad rallies under threat of dismissal from their jobs, along with the security police and their families.
After Monday’s speech, activists said Syrian forces extended their security sweep near the northern border with Turkey to the merchant city of Aleppo.
Central neighbourhoods in Aleppo have been largely quiet, with a heavy security presence and the political and business alliance intact between Sunni business families and the ruling hierarchy from Syria’s minority Alawite sect.
Syria, a country of 20 million, is mainly Sunni, and the protests demanding political freedoms and an end to 41 years of Assad family rule have been biggest in mostly Sunni rural areas and towns and cities, as opposed to mixed areas.
Tens of students at Aleppo University were arrested on Monday and 12 people, including a mosque preacher, were detained in the nearby village of Tel Rifaat, halfway between Aleppo and the Turkish border, following protests, witnesses said.
Protesters at the university had criticised Assad’s speech, only his third since the uprising. (Reporting by David Brunnstrom in Brussels and Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Amman; additional reporting by Yara Bayoumy in Beirut; Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman; Gleb Bryanski in Paris; Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Elizabeth Fullerton; Editing by Nick Macfie)