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Sunday, September 9, 2012

EU may impose new Syria sanctions as Assad clings to power

A handout photo distributed by Syrian News Agency (SANA) on July 3, 2012, shows Syria's President Bashar al-Assad during an interview with a Turkish newspaper in Damascus.
Credit: Reuters/SANA/Handout

By Sebastian Moffett and Justyna Pawlak
NICOSIA/PAPHOS, Cyprus | Sun Sep 9, 2012 9:38am IST

(Reuters) - The European Union may impose new sanctions on the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad as soon as next month, EU diplomats said on Saturday.

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said his EU counterparts meeting in Cyprus had agreed new sanctions were needed and had tasked Catherine Ashton, the bloc's foreign policy chief, with preparing suggestions for talks next month.

"We need to go further in (targeting Syria's) financial sector and commercial activities," Reynders told Reuters after the meeting in a luxury resort in Cyprus - less than 400 kilometres (250 miles) from Damascus.

The agreement comes amid frustration that Assad is clinging to power despite a 17-month uprising against him and several rounds of EU sanctions. These include an arms embargo and travel bans and asset freezes on around 50 businesses and 150 people.

Ashton said the bloc would also boost its efforts to help refugees and other victims of the Syrian conflict and support Lakhdar Brahimi, the new U.N.-Arab League special envoy.

"Sanctions are under review," Ashton told a news conference in Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, after the meeting.

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