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Middle East
Syria denounces EU sanctions move
Foreign minister says travel bans and asset freezes on Syrian officials will ultimately harm European interests.
Last Modified: 23 May 2011 20:14
For two months, Syrians have been calling on president al-Assad to leave office [Reuters]

Syria has hit out at the European Union for imposing sanctions on Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, and other Syrian officials, over the bloody crackdown on anti-government protests in the country.

Walid al-Moualem, Syria's foreign minister, told Syrian television on Monday that the EU had "erred" by imposing sanctions.

He branded the measures a new "black page" in Europe's history.

"I say this measure, just as it will harm Syria's interests, it will harm Europe's interest. And Syria won't remain silent about this measure," he said.

He also said that he was confident Syria would emerge stronger from its political crisis, which has seen repeated security crackdowns over two-months of revolt against Assad's rule.

"The president is our leader, we will continue with that, and I am sure that we will emerge from this crisis stronger," al-Moualem said.

Officials sanctioned

EU foreign ministers agreed on Monday to add al-Assad and several Syrian officials to a list people affected by EU sanctions.

"The repression in Syria continues," William Hague, the British foreign secretary, said ahead of talks with his counterparts.

"It is important to see the right to peaceful protest, the release of political prisoners and taking the path of reform not repression in Syria over the coming days."


Florence Looi reports in an Al Jazeera Exclusive on Syrians being tortured by security forces.

The European sanctions against Syria included asset freezes, travel bans and an arms embargo.

"They (the EU) have actually come into line with the US now and included president Bashar al-Assad in their list of officials targeted by sanctions," Al Jazeera's Nadim Baba reported from Brussels.

"This means he will now also face an asset freeze and a travel ban."

"It shows how seriously the European Union takes [al-Assad's] failure to accept the olive branch that they offered him," our correspondent said.

On the list of 13 targeted officials was the president's brother, Maher al-Assad, who commands Syria's Republican Guard and is the second most powerful man in Syria.

Ali Mamlouk, head of the General Intelligence Service, and Adulfattah Qudsiyeh, who runs military intelligence, were also on the list.

Germany's foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, said it was necessary to move against Syria's top leaders.

"If someone represses his own people like that, responds to peaceful demonstrations with force, this can't be left unanswered by the European Union," he said.

Security crackdown

EU officials said the sanctions were aimed at stopping the violence rather than pushing al-Assad from office.

On Sunday, protesters defied a security crackdown, turning out in thousands in the city of Homs to attend the funerals of pro-democracy demonstrators and calling for al-Assad's removal.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in Britain, said it had the names of 863 civilians who had been killed in shootings by security forces since the pro-democracy uprising erupted 10 weeks ago.

Al-Assad has largely dismissed the protests as part of a foreign-backed conspiracy to sow sectarian strife in Syria.

In April, the United States imposed sanctions on Syria's intelligence agency and two relatives of the president.

The sanctions included asset freezes and bans on US business dealings, building on broader US measures against Syria that were in place since 2004.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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