EU tightens sanctions on Syria

European ministers agree to embargo Syrian oil imports and freeze assets of four more people and three entities.

    The UN estimates that 2,200 Syrians have been killed by state security forces since mid-March [AFP]

    European Union governments have agreed to ban imports of Syrian oil in a move to strengthen economic pressure on President Bashar al-Assad and his government.

    EU foreign ministers met in Poland on Friday, where they discussed a plan first announced two weeks ago to impose sweeping new economic sanctions against Syria, including an embargo on oil imports.

    David Cameron, the British prime minister, expressed his support for new sanctions on Thursday following the "Friends of Libya" conference in Paris.

    "We need tougher sanctions, more travel bans, more asset freezes, a clear message that the regime and what it is doing is unacceptable," he said.

    The oil embargo marks a significant step for the EU, which has so far taken an incremental approach to sanctions against Assad as they try to force him to end a crackdown on anti-government protesters and relinquish power.

    Friday's decision also expanded the list of entities subject to EU travel bans and asset freezes by seven, including four people.

    "The sanctions have been agreed," an EU official told Reuters. "They ban the import of Syrian oil and petroleum products to the EU. Four more people and three entities are also included."

    The measures will go into effect on Saturday.

    Ongoing demonstrations

    Protests were held across Syria on Friday under the banner of "death rather than humiliation". Activists said at least eleven people were shot dead by security forces.

    Security forces killed at least seven others on Thursday, activists said.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said security forces opened fire on protesters in the central region of Homs on Thursday. According to the Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), which organises activists on the ground, armoured cars entered the city.

    A senior Syrian official, meanwhile, said in a contested video posted on YouTube that he had resigned in disgust at hundreds of killings and thousands of arrests by state security forces.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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