EU Expands Sanctions on Syria

Posted August 1st, 2011 at 11:10 am (UTC-5)
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The European Union expanded sanctions against the Syrian government Monday, imposing travel bans and asset freezes on five more officials associated with Syria's bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton condemned Syria's recent attacks on citizens and said the “brutal violence” risks escalating tensions and divisions in the country.

The EU did not announce the names of the newly targeted Syrian officials. The bloc has sanctioned more than 30 officials, including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in its effort to stop the Syrian government's assault.

The latest sanctions came hours before an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting to review the situation in Syria. Italy and Germany, both EU members, called for Monday's meeting in New York.

In Syria, activists say army tanks shelled Hama for a second day, after killing at least 80 people in the city on Sunday.

It is difficult to verify accounts of the unrest in Syria because the government has barred most foreign media from reporting and traveling freely in the country. Some estimates say as many as 140 died in the clashes Sunday as Syrian soldiers backed by tanks fired on citizens.

Ahead of the EU meeting, British Foreign Secretary William Hague called for stronger sanctions against the Assad government but said international military intervention was “not a remote possibility.”

Hague added that Arab countries have to be among those pressuring Syria.

Russia said Monday it was concerned about reports of large numbers of casualties and called for all sides in the conflict to end violence.

The United States and several other nations have condemned the Syrian government's actions against its citizens.

Activists say President Assad is trying to crush the largely peaceful uprisings against his government that broke out across much of the country in March.

Rights groups say Syrian forces have killed at least 1,600 civilians during the government's crackdown. The government has blamed much of the violence on terrorists and militants who it says have killed hundreds of security personnel.