EU mulls new Syria sanctions

Filed on August 8, 2011

BRUSSELS — EU nations are eyeing new sanctions against Syrian individuals and businesses linked to the ongoing clampdown on dissent by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, EU diplomats said Monday.

The sources, who asked not to be identified, said the European Union was looking at adding to a list of 38 people and businesses already targeted by a an asset freeze and visa ban.

The current EU measures also include an embargo on arms and on equipment used for internal repression.

But calls by some nations, notably Germany, for economic sanctions that could include a boycott of Syrian oil and gas exports had failed to win wide approval and would likely not be discussed until September, the sources said.

The 27-nation bloc last week added Syrian Defence Minister Ali Habib Mahmud and four others to its sanctions blacklist, which also includes Assad, members of his family and three commanders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard accused of aiding the crackdown.

Italy however is the sole member of the 27-nation bloc to have recalled its ambassador in Syria for consultations over the repression, which rights groups said has left more than 1,600 civilians dead.

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait on Monday recalled envoys to Damascus and the Arab League condemned violence in Syria, leaving Assad further isolated even as he defended his crackdown on “outlaws.”

The EU ambassador to Syria is to remain in Damascus “to observe what’s happening on the ground,” a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said last week.

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