EU Expanding Syria Sanctions

The European Union added five Syrian officials to its list of sanctions following the slaughter of 140 in Hama.

Gabe Kahn.,

Catherine Ashton
Catherine Ashton
Wikimedia Common

The European Union expanded its sanctions against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad on Monday, imposing asset freezes and travel bans against five more military and government officials.

Meanwhile, France announced the 27-nation bloc will "very soon" adopt further sanctions amid the continuing unrest and bloodshed in that country.

The EU decision brings the number of individuals targeted by the EU to 35, including President Bashar Assad. Four government entities are also on the list. The names of the officials added to the sanctions list have not yet been released.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton condemned Syria's latest crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. Anti-government protesters killed at least 140 on Sunday.

Attacks on protesters in Hama and other Syrian cities by Assad gunmen show the regime is "unwilling to implement the reforms it has promised in response to the legitimate requests of the Syrian people," Ashton said.

The European Union also has an embargo on sales of arms and equipment that can be used to suppress demonstrations.

"I wish to remind the Syrian authorities of their responsibility to protect the population," Ashton said. "The brutal violence creates a serious risk of escalating tension and factional divisions and is not consistent with broad reforms."

The announcement came after one of the bloodiest days since the uprising against Assad's authoritarian rule began in mid-March. Syrian rights groups said in a joint statement that 74 people were killed throughout the country, 55 of them from Hama and neighboring villages.

Critics of EU sanction efforts say targeting key individuals, but not the corporations that drive Syria's economy, is ineffectual and intended to protect profits of powerful European companies with business interests in Syria.

More than 1,600 civilians have been killed in a crackdown on largely peaceful protests since a popular uprising began in Syria in mid-March.