Russia criticises EU ban on Syria oil

Foreign minister says "sanctions rarely solve anything", as EU blocks trade with more businesses amid protest crackdown.

    Russia disapproves the ban imposed by the European Union on oil imports from Syria, Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister has said.

    "We have always said that unilateral sanctions will do no good," the Interfax news agency quoted Lavrov as saying on Saturday.

    "This destroys a partnership approach to any crisis ... Sanctions rarely solve anything in general."

    The EU on Friday adopted a ban on oil imports from Syria to take effect on Saturday, depriving President Bashar al-Assad's government of a vital source of income. The country gets about 28 per cent of its revenue from the oil trade and sells fuel to France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.

    The EU also extended its sanctions to four businessmen and three Syrian companies, meaning that member states will be banned from doing business with the named companies - Real Estate Bank, Mada Transport and Cham Investment Group.

    The three companies and the four individuals financed or provided financial or economic support to the Syrian regime, the EU journal said.

    Deaths reported

    Meanwhile, activitists said at least 23 people had been killed in protests over the past two days as security forces continued their crackdown on dissidents.

    Security forces entered the town of Maarat Hourmi in Idlib governorate, killing three people and wounding five others by random gunfire, an activist said.

    Security forces were reportedly searching for Adnan Bakkour, the attorney-general from Hama who, according to a video message, recently resigned in protest against the crackdown.

    An activist told Al Jazeera that security forces opened fire on a funeral in Arbeen, a Damascus suburb.

    Hundreds of people had gathered, mourning four protesters said to have been killed on Friday.

    "We are living in a vicious circle," the activist, who was present at the funeral, said.  "The regime kills protesters then kills those who mourn them."

    The Local Co-ordination Committees, which have activists on the ground, said a political activist was also killed in the central city of Hama "when the army opened fire on civilians who were watching the troops."

    Activists also reported raids of arrests in various cities across the country.

    Prison visits

    Also on Saturday, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross started a visit to Syria to discuss gaining access for the first time to its prisons, where thousands of activists and other civilians arrested in anti-government protests are believed to be held.

    Jakob Kellenberger was due to hold talks with senior Syrian officials including Assad.

    "The ICRC visits detainees in order to assess the conditions in which they are being held and the treatment they receive," the ICRC said in a statement, adding that Kellenberger would also raise the issue of enhanced access to areas of unrest.

    "Ensuring that the sick and the wounded have access to medical care will be among the particularly urgent humanitarian challenges to be addressed with the Syrian authorities," the ICRC said.

    For prison visits, the ICRC has insisted on its standard terms, including full access to all detention centres, the right to interview detainees in private and make follow-up visits.

    The ICRC sought access for years to Syrian prisoners but stepped up its requests when the uprising first erupted in March.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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