EU beefs up Syria sanctions

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Brussels, Feb 27: EU foreign ministers slapped fresh sanctions on Syria, including a freeze on its central bank assets on Monday, as France suggested the Syrian regime be dragged before an international court.

"We are doing all we can to bring the widest possible weight to bear on the Syrian regime and increase the stranglehold on it," said British Foreign Secretary William Hague. Moves to further restrict the regime's access to finance were key, he added at talks with his 26 European Union counterparts. "These are important new measures," Hague said.

"If the Syrians think we are relaxing they're mistaken. We are intensifying our efforts." Measures decided by the ministers also included an assets freeze and travel ban on seven Syrian ministers, whose identities will be issued on Tuesday.

The EU has already blacklisted almost 150 Syrian entities and people. Also among the new restrictive measures, the 12th round of EU sanctions so far against President Bashar al-Assad's regime, was a ban on trade in gold and precious metals.

Cargo flights to the EU operated by Syrians will not be allowed to land, but should they be carrying passengers they will be given access to EU nations.

"We will maintain the pressure" through more sanctions, said French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, who slammed the regime's controversial weekend vote on a new constitution as "a sinister masquerade." "It's disgraceful because at the same time bombs are falling on Homs and other cities," he said.

"We must maintain the pressure because the regime continues its repression," Juppe added. 

PTI

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