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EU Slaps Sanctions on Syrian First Lady

Syrian President Bashar Assad and his wife, Asma, arrive for a formal dinner after a Mediterranean Summit meeting at the Petit Palais in Paris, July 13, 2008 file photo.
Syrian President Bashar Assad and his wife, Asma, arrive for a formal dinner after a Mediterranean Summit meeting at the Petit Palais in Paris, July 13, 2008 file photo.

The European Union imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's British-born wife and several other members of his family and administration Friday.

Meanwhile in Geneva, the United Nations Human Rights Council also toughened its stance on Syria with a sharp condemnation of Syria's "escalating violence" and called for an extension of a probe into the Syrian government's alleged abuses in the last year of unrest.  

The 47-member body voted 41 to three in favor of an EU-sponsored resolution backed by the United States and Arab countries. China, Russia and Cuba voted against the measure.

In Washington, the Obama administration said it will allow Syrians in the country to remain even after their visa expired and not deport those in the U.S. illegally.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said Syrians in the United States will be given protected status because they would "they would face serious threats to their personal safety" if they were to return.

European foreign ministers meeting in Brussels slapped new sanctions on Syrian first lady Asma al-Assad, the president's mother and sister, as well as eight government officials. The sanctions will go into effect Saturday.

Ahead of the EU meeting in Brussel, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the European body is greatly concerned over the Syrian crisis and that sanctions are a "really important tool" to include in the political framework on Syria.

"I never underestimate that sanctions make a significant difference because they do two things, one is they target individuals' entities in ways that prevent them from carrying on business as usual. And secondly they make the strong political statement about how the international community feels about what's going on," Ashton said.

The sanctions come after emails leaked show Mrs. Assad allegedly went on lavish shopping sprees while Syria descended into violence. British officials say the EU travel ban can not stop the Syrian first lady from traveling to Britain, if she has retained her citizenship.

The diplomatic action comes as opposition activists reported continued violence on Friday.  The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told VOA three Syrian army defectors were killed during heavy fighting in Azaz, near the border with Turkey.  It said 13 civilians died Friday.  

The rights group also said Syrian forces continued their assault on the central city of Homs - the site of a highly publicized siege earlier in the year.

Amnesty International called on UN special envoy to Syria Kofi Annan to include the monitoring of human rights abuses in his six-point peace plan backed by the UN Security Council earlier this week. The London-based human rights group says its "essential" to document the crimes in order to hold those responsible accountable in the future.

Annan's spokesperson says the former U.N. chief plans to travel to Moscow and Beijing later this week for crisis talks on the issue.  He said Annan is still "carefully" studying the Syrian responses his proposal, after returning from three days of intensive talks in Damascus.

The United Nations says at least 8,000 people have been killed in the Assad government's violent crackdown on the revolt, which began with peaceful protests and became increasingly militarized as army defectors attacked pro-Assad troops who assaulted civilians.

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

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by: rightarm-of- jah
March 23, 2012 10:50 AM
just live in bondage and go pray ten thousand times per day. what a life.While the Sheiks, and the Khalifas, and the Clerics have a very large "harem of pretty women" guess what they are doing?

by: rightarm-of- jah
March 23, 2012 10:50 AM
....Why? because their dominination over women and all the countries resources, becoming rich and having large Harems, while thousands of people in those very rich oil states are living in poverty. They want to reserve power for their own clan from father to son to brother they all have all the wealth and the people are brain washed to worship muhomad and dont question authority

by: rightarm-of- jah
March 23, 2012 10:47 AM
There have been uprising in at least 10 other Moslem/Arab countries who rise up for real liberty and justice, guess what? their leaders have all said, it is from terroist and Al Queada

by: Fatimah
March 23, 2012 9:30 AM
Asma Assad is like a modern day Marie Antoinette only worse. Marie was oblivious to the suffering of the French common citizens while she enjoyed her royal lifestyle. Asma has lived in a free society and enjoyed the privileges of a democratic government. She is now advocating the oppression of the common Syrian citizen while enjoying her royal lifestyle.

by: Kubrick
March 23, 2012 7:48 AM
2012 Dictature Odyssey

by: NVO
March 23, 2012 6:56 AM
The EU is a CORRUPT, SECULAR, EVIL , organization in the same family as The Trilateral Commission, The Club of Rome, The Bilderbers, The Counsel On Foreign Relations, ALL pushing for a ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT under THE NEW WORLD ORDER, to be headed by the ANTICHRIST and THE FALSE PROPHET. Catherine Ashton and Bon-Key-Monkey are both NEW WORLD ORDER DRONES!

by: NVO
March 23, 2012 6:28 AM
The EU is a SHAMEFUL, SECULAR, CORRUPT, organization in the same family with The Trilateral Commission, The Club of Rome, The Bilderbergs, The Counsel on Foreign Relations. ALL pushing for a ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT under the NEW WORLD ORDER, which will be headed by the AntiChrist and the False Prophet. Catherine Ashton is a SHAMEFUL, NEW WORLD ORDER DRONE!

by: BOBBAK
March 23, 2012 5:51 AM
Ziad a.Fadel your secular government wouldn't have been on power if Iranian non secular government had not supported it with oil money. neither you or Hezbollah wouldn't even exist if Iranian regime stop providing you with money an intelligent. it is ironic that all devil countries suppress their own people but support the other evils.

by: S.H.Huang
March 23, 2012 5:36 AM
Sanctions, no matter how harsh they may be, did not work in the past; and will not work today or to-morrow. In the menatime, ordinary Syrians are dying every day; and no nation is helping the people. Men, women and children have been killed. What is the UN doing about it other than sanction after sanction after sanction?Simple but unavoidable solution: arm the rebels; and even send in troops (UN-backed ). Then the tide will turn against the Syrian Government!

by: ANA
March 23, 2012 5:35 AM
,,,"Syrian government, which he said continues its "murdering" behavior." hellloooooo people, its not the Syrian government! its terrorists and outsiders from neighboring countries in the Middle East. Ive been to Syria 8 times! if only people would open up their eyes...
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