EU agrees oil embargo as Syrians march against Assad

EU agrees oil embargo as Syrians march against Assad
# 02 September 2011 18:20 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. The European Union decided to impose sanctions on Syrian oil exports on Friday, piling more pressure on President Bashar al-Assad, whose security forces, activists said, shot dead six more protesters, APA reports quoting website.

"The sanctions have been agreed," an official said in the Polish resort of Sopot where EU foreign ministers met to set out their response to Assad’s military crackdown on five months of protests against his 11-year rule.

"President Assad is carrying out massacres in his own country," Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said. "The whole international community is urging him to relinquish power."

As the EU tightened the economic screw on Assad, demonstrations broke out in several parts of Syria, mainly in rural regions because of a heavy army presence in urban areas, activists and residents said.

They reported that at least six protesters were killed when security forces fired on crowds in the Damascus suburbs of Irbin and Hamouriya, the eastern tribal province of Deir al-Zor and in rural areas of Homs province.

Syria’s official SANA news agency said several members of the security forces were wounded when their bases in Irbin and Hamouriya came under attack.

Syria has expelled most foreign media, making it difficult to verify accounts of the unrest in which one prominent Syria rights group says nearly 2,000 civilians, as well as 463 soldiers and police, have been killed.

"Death rather than humiliation!" chanted protesters in the village of Kfar Zita in Hama province, according to a YouTube video released by residents.

"Oh mother, Bashar is in his last days," chanted a crowd in the town of Kfar Nubbul in northern Idlib province, carrying a banner that compared the modest international response to Syria’s uprising compared to interventions in major oil states.

"We don’t have oil like Iraq or Libya, don’t we deserve to live?" it said.

The EU has already banned Europeans from doing business with dozens of Syrian officials, government institutions and military-linked firms it says are tied to the violent repression of the protests.

Four people and three entities were added to that sanctions list on Friday, the EU official said.

Friday’s steps are the first time the EU will target Syrian industry but analysts say the sanctions, which do not go as far as the investment ban imposed by the United States last month, may have only a limited impact on Assad’s access to funds.

While EU sanctions will disrupt a major source of foreign currency for Syria, most of whose oil exports go to Europe, Damascus should be able to find new markets in Asia for its crude, even if it has to offer discounts and may take time to agree contracts.

"They have enough foreign reserves in the bank to support them (while) they look for alternative buyers," said Julien Barnes-Dacey, Middle East analyst at Control Risks in London.

"But it does point to the significant challenges that they face. The regime is finding itself increasingly encircled regionally and internationally."


France said it was pushing for a U.N. Security Council resolution that sets up United Nations sanctions against Syria -- something which veto-wielding council members Russia and China have so far resisted.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged European and other countries on Thursday to impose more sanctions on Assad’s government, saying more pressure was needed to make him quit.

No Middle Eastern country has followed the U.S. and EU lead in calling for Assad to stand aside, and British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Friday that Arab nations were less willing to act than they were in the case of Libya.

But he said that during conversations with Arab leaders at a meeting in France to discuss Libya after Muammar Gaddafi’s fall, he detected a hardening line against Assad.

"I think they are toughening their stance because they realize that what he is doing is appalling," Cameron told the British Broadcasting Corporation.

"They realize that he had his chance to demonstrate he was in favor of reform and he has completely failed to do that."

Assad, 45, inherited power from his father and retains the loyalty of the core of his armed forces, whose commanders are mostly from his own Alawite minority.

Last month he sent the army into several cities to crush dissent. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 473 people were killed, 360 civilians and 113 from the security forces.

Despite the repression, demonstrators have been encouraged by Gaddafi’s fall and the rising international pressure on Syria, including Friday’s EU sanctions.
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