A new draft resolution drawn up by Britain, France, Germany and Portugal, with US backing, a copy of which was obtained by AFP late Tuesday, threatens to adopt sanctions if the deadly crackdown by Syrian forces on anti-regime protesters does not end.
The formulation was aimed at overcoming opposition from Russia and China, who have threatened to veto any sanctions resolution brought to the council, which has so far only agreed one statement on the crackdown since it began in March.
“There is a need for a strong Security Council response to the repression,” said one European diplomat explaining the resolution.
“There are hopes that this resolution can quickly get a majority in favour on the council,” said a diplomat from a second council member.
In the past week, the European Union has tightened the screws on President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, banning new investments in Syria’s oil sector at home and abroad, and prohibiting delivery of bank notes to the central bank.
The latest measures marked a seventh round of EU sanctions on Damascus for its refusal to halt a brutal crackdown on protest in which the United Nations says 2,700 people have already been killed.
It has also listed 56 Syrians and 18 entities subject to travel bans and asset freezes.
Washington has imposed three sets of punitive measures on top regime officials, and President Barack Obama has called on Assad to step down.
The measures are already having an effect. The Damascus government surprised the world on Thursday by announcing the temporary suspension of imports of products that are subject to tariffs of more than five percent.
The curbs have sent prices of cars, furniture, clothes, household appliances and certain foodstuffs rocketing, with consumers complaining they will have to make do with locally-produced goods.
Syrian central bank governor Adib Mayaleh told AFP the import restrictions would save Syria $6 billion (4.4 billion euros) annually.
“This is a precautionary measure to protect our currency reserves, which are currently more than $17 billion,” he said.
The unrest rocking the country has slowed economic activity, with analysts predicting negative economic growth in 2011 as a result of a decline in tourism and investment.
Rights groups said the violence on the ground was continuing.
Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said unidentified attackers killed a nuclear engineer on Wednesday in the central city of Homs.
“Nuclear engineer Aws Abdel Karim Khalil was killed this morning by unknown attackers,” the group said in a statement.
On Tuesday in the same city, unidentified attackers killed Mohamed Ali Aqil, deputy rector of the architecture faculty at Al-Baath University, and Nael Dakhil, director of the military petrochemical school.
Rights activists in the city accuse Syrian authorities of carrying out the killings.
The Observatory said Syrian forces killed at least six civilians in raids on dissidents in various parts of the country on Tuesday.
In a blog he launched on Tuesday, British ambassador to Damascus Simon Collis said Assad’s regime saw “only one way out — the return to authoritarian rule where fear surpasses a desire for freedom.
“This is a regime that remains determined to control every significant aspect of political life in Syria,” Collis wrote.
“It is used to power. And it will do anything to keep it.”
Damascus does not accept the existence of popular opposition to the authorities, instead blaming “armed gangs” and “terrorists” for trying to sow chaos.
On Monday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, speaking at the annual UN General Assembly, accused foreign governments of trying to undermine the co-existence among Syria’s different religious groups and of seeking to create “total chaos that would dismember Syria.”
The temblor was recorded near the Kilauea volcano; aftershocks are expected, say officials
The yellow metal has seen a steep upward rise, hitting a six-month peak
It will be humid by night and Wednesday morning, with a chance of fog or mist formation over some internal areas