The European Union is expected to extend its sanctions on Syria next week to include President Bashar Assad, Reuters reported on Wednesday.
The EU announced initial sanctions against Syria last week, calling for asset freezes and travel bans against 13 members of the Syrian elite. Assad, however, was not included in the sanctions, though his cousin and brother were on the list.
Assad was not included in the list after some EU states argued that this could make it harder to encourage change in the country.
However, an EU diplomat told Reuters on Wednesday that the debate had hardened over the week and the issue had been only whether to announce the decision immediately or leave it to a meeting of EU foreign ministers next Monday.
“What I detect from members states is that there is a clear majority, if not now a consensus, for putting him on the list,” the diplomat said, adding that “there has been so much criticism from the European Parliament and the media for not having put Bashar on the list immediately that I think they were more responsive for a second round of sanctions with him on it.”
The report comes on the same day that the United States imposed sanctions on Assad and six of his top aides for human rights abuses.
The move freezes all assets of the named officials in the U.S. and places a general bar on U.S. individuals and companies from dealing with them.
In addition to Assad, the sanctions also target Vice President Farouq Al Shara’a, Prime Minister Adel Safar, Interior Minister Mohammad Ebrahim Al Shaar, Defence Minister Ali Habib as well as Abdul Fatah Qudsiya, the head of Syrian military intelligence, and Mohammad Dib Zaitoun, director of the political security directorate.
The EU diplomat told Reuters that Arab countries had praised the original EU decision to leave Assad off the sanctions list.
“Arab countries told us we must keep some wild card to get our message through and that by putting him on the list too quickly we would be disregarded by the people in Damascus,” the diplomat said.
He also said that he is “not convinced” that putting Assad on the list would be putting the right kind of pressure on him. “To be honest, I’m still not sure that it's a smart move,” he admitted.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, Assad admitted his security forces have “made mistakes” during the uprising against his regime. His comments come as Syrian tanks continue to bomb the town of Tel Kelakh, which is located near the Syrian border with Lebanon.
Human rights groups say Assad’s crackdown on protesters has killed at least 700 civilians. Assad blames the violence on armed groups backed by a disparate variety of subversive elements including Islamists, “Zionists,” and outside powers. Authorities say more than 120 soldiers and police have been killed.