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EU sanctions on Syria to take effect today

Protesters hitting a poster of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad with shoes during a demonstration outside the Syrian embassy in London. Photo: Leon Neal/AFP

Protesters hitting a poster of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad with shoes during a demonstration outside the Syrian embassy in London. Photo: Leon Neal/AFP

An arms embargo and sanctions against 13 Syrian officials deemed responsible for the regime’s savage crackdown on protesters has been officially adopted and is coming into force today, an EU statement said.

“The (EU) Council has adopted a regulation and a decision providing for an embargo on exports to Syria of arms and equipment that could be used for internal repression, as well as a visa ban and an assets freeze,” the statement said yesterday.

The visa ban and assets freeze target 13 officials and associates of the Syrian regime identified as responsible for the violent repression against the civilian population in Syria, it added.

The statement said the restrictive measures are being published in the European Union’s Official Journal today, meaning that is when they will take effect.

The names of the officials were not immediately available, but diplomats told AFP last week that the 27-nation bloc was momentarily holding off sanctioning President Bashar al-Assad as member states were divided over the question.

At talks last Friday, however, ambassadors from the 27 states agreed to look at additional measures against those involved in violence against civilians, “and in particular to look fully at including the highest level of the Syrian leadership on the list,” diplomats said.

In talks to sanction Syria, Britain, France and Germany argued in favour of a swift and clear message while smaller states – notably Cyprus, Portugal and Greece – were reticent over targeting Mr Assad.

Estonia for its part has been concerned for seven of its nationals kidnapped in Syria’s neighbour Lebanon.

In Syria yesterday, security forces rounded up thousands of men as they went house to house in a bid to crush an anti-regime protest movement in the coastal city of Banias while shots rang out in a Damascus suburb surrounded by troops.

Rights groups say more than 600 people have been killed and 8,000 jailed or gone missing in the eight-week crackdown on protesters.

The Committee of the Martyrs of the 15 March Revolution puts the death toll at 708 while the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 621 civilians were killed as well as 120 soldiers and security forces.

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