Exiled dissidents meet in Turkey as fresh incidents of violence are reported from city of Homs.
|The EU says Syria’s government must cease its crackdown if it is serious about holding a dialogue on reforms [Getty]|
Diplomatic pressure mounts on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after Qatar, previously a major supporter, shut its embassy in Damascus and the European Union said it was considering tougher sanctions.
Britain’s foreign minister William Hague says more pressure is needed to stop the government’s crackdown on pro-democracy activists:
“The situation remains very serious and if anything is deteriorating. Certainly there will be a time for further sanctions and we need to be discussing now what those would be.”
The EU has already imposed travel bans and asset freezes on 34 Syrian individuals and entities, but Hague said after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels “work now needs to start so we can add to that if necessary over the coming days and weeks.”
A statement agreed by the ministers in Brussels said: “Until the unacceptable violence against the civilian population is halted… the EU will pursue and carry forward its current policy, including through sanctions.” it said.
Qatar withdrew its ambassador from Damascus and closed its embassy last week after two attacks on the embassy compound by militiamen loyal to Assad, known as ‘shabbiha’, diplomats in the Syrian capital told Reuters on Monday.
Syrian forces and militiamen loyal to the president killed 10 people in attacks on residential districts in Homs on Monday, the Local Coordination Committees (LCC) activist group said.
“Tens of people have been also wounded. Security forces and shabbiha are rampaging in streets and firing randomly. Whole neighbourhoods are besieged,” the group said in a statement sent to Reuters.
Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch’s Middle East & North Africa director on the Syrian protests.
A 12-year-old boy was among those killed on Monday the LCC said, adding that the attacks focused on the al-Khalidiya district of the city.
At least 30 people were reported to have been killed at the weekend in the city.
Meanwhile tens of thousands have continued taking to the streets of Hama in night-time protests there.
Al-Assad is particularly disliked in Hama because his father once quashed an uprising there killing up to 20,000 people.
And the latest town to witness the wrath of government security forces is Al-Boukamal, on the border with Iraq.
Witnesses there say the army parachuted soldiers and rolled in tanks to put down growing pro-democracy protests.
Assad has been waging a military campaign to try and crush the uprising for political freedoms, during which troops and security forces killed over 1,400 civilians and arrested over 12,000 Syrians, according to rights campaigners.
Homs has been a focal point of the uprising since the military stormed its districts two months ago to crush protests calling for Assad to quit.
Assad had described the uprising as a foreign conspiracy to sow sectarian strife. His opponents argue that the president has been playing on sectarian fears to maintain Alawite support and keep in power his family, which has ruled Syria for 41 years.