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June 21, 2011

EU Agrees to Expand Syria Sanctions

European Union diplomats say the 27-nation bloc has agreed to expand sanctions against Syria, adding seven individuals, including three Iranians, linked to a Syrian crackdown on a pro-democracy uprising.

The diplomats said Wednesday the seven individuals will be added to a list of 23 people and entities already under an EU asset freeze and travel ban. The list includes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Iranians and other newly-targeted individuals are suspected of providing military equipment and support to the Syrian government in suppressing an opposition movement that began in March. The crackdown has killed at least 1,400 people.

The expanded EU sanctions are due to be adopted on Thursday and come into force on Friday.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem denounced EU sanctions Wednesday, saying they are hurting the livelihood of Syrians and represent an "act of war."

Speaking at a news conference in Damascus, he said Syria "will forget Europe is on the map" and rejects foreign interference in its internal affairs.

Moallem denied that Iran and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah are helping Syria's government to crack down on the unrest. He said some of the violence may be the work of al-Qaida.

Syrian government crackdown on pro-democracy protests:

The Syrian foreign minister also singled out EU power France for criticism, accusing Syria's former colonial ruler of pursuing a "colonialist agenda under the guise of human rights."

France is one of several Western nations lobbying for a U.N. Security Council resolution that would condemn Syria for the crackdown. Russia, a veto-wielding member of the council, has expressed opposition to such a resolution.

Assad said Monday he is willing to hold a national dialogue on possible reforms to parliamentary election laws, the media and Syria's constitution. Western powers dismissed his comments, saying they did not meet popular demands for an end to the Assad family's decades-long authoritarian rule.

 

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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