EU to extend Belarus, Iran, Syria sanctions
EU to add 16 names to Belarus sanctions list; Another 29 Iranians targeted over rights; Syrian Commercial Bank to be added to target list
October 9, 2011 6:00 by Reuters
The European Union is to extend sanctions on Belarus, Iran and Syria next week in response to crackdowns on opposition movements and other rights violations, EU officials and diplomats said on Friday.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Monday will add 16 names to a list of Belarusian officials targeted by asset freezes and travel bans and discuss extending such steps to some Belarusian businesses, the sources said.
The ministers will also add 29 names to a list of 32 Iranians targeted by similar measures due to their association with serious human rights violations.
Officials and diplomats said that on Monday an EU committee would endorse an agreement in principle to add the Syrian Commercial Bank to a sanctions list. The sanctions would involve an asset freeze and a bar on European firms from doing business with it, a step that would take effect later in the week.
Earlier this week a source incorrectly identified the bank in question as the Syrian central bank.
The new sanctions on Belarus will mainly target judges and state lawyers involved in the detention of leading human rights activist Ales Belyatsky in August, an EU diplomat said.
The sanctions will bring the number of officials in Belarus targeted by EU sanctions to more than 200. Many EU states have been pushing to extend the sanctions to target business entities, but this has been resisted by some Eastern European members, a diplomat said.
European governments have pushed strongly in recent months to step up economic pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the hope of ending six months of violence against anti-government demonstrators. EU officials say the aim is to block the Assad government’s access to funds.
Last month, the EU banned European firms from making new investments in Syria’s oil industry. The EU also banned the delivery of Syrian banknotes and coins produced in the European Union.
Before that, the EU banned the import of Syrian crude oil and froze the assets of several Syrian companies and entities. The EU has also imposed travel bans and asset freezes on officials involved in the crackdown.
Earlier this week Russia and China blocked a Western-backed UN Security Council resolution that could have led to broader sanctions against Syria.
EU officials said the EU was increasingly worried about the use of the death penalty in Iran, including against minors.
The US State Department has said Iran executed about 312 people in 2010, many after trials conducted in secret. In many cases people executed for supposedly criminal offences were actually political dissidents, the department said in a report.
EU sanctions on Iran focus mostly on economic and trade measures aiming to force Iran to slow its nuclear programme, which Tehran says serves peaceful purposes but Western powers believe is aimed at producing weapons. (Reporting by David Brunnstrom; editing by Sebastian Moffett)