U.S., U.K., France Said to Seek UN Sanctions Against Assad

The U.S., Britain and France are preparing to ask the United Nations Security Council this week to freeze the foreign financial assets of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, a Western diplomat said.

The measure would also bar foreign travel by the Syrian leader and call for an arms embargo on Syria, the diplomat said.

The three nations are planning to introduce a draft that targets Assad and about five other government and military leaders, according to the diplomat, who spoke on condition of not being identified because the text hasn’t been made public.

The text will be circulated to full 15-member Security Council following the likely adoption tomorrow by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council of a resolution condemning the Assad regime’s attacks on peaceful protesters. The Human Rights Council is debating that measure today.

The moves came as Syrian security forces killed at least eight protesters since yesterday, when thousands took to the streets demanding Assad bow to demands, echoed by the U.S. and Europe, to quit office. At least two anti-government protesters were shot dead today in Homs, where as many as 5,000 people demonstrated while a UN team was there as part of a four-day mission to assess Syria’s humanitarian situation, Mahmoud Merhi, head of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, said by phone.

“The gravity of on-going violations and the brutal attacks against the peaceful protesters in that country demand your continued attention,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a speech today to the Human Rights Council.

A Human Rights Council fact-finding mission reported last week that the Syrian authorities have engaged in a “pattern of widespread or systematic human rights violations,” including murder, enforced disappearances, torture, deprivation of liberty, and persecution, Pillay said.

The draft resolution submitted to the Human Rights Council “strongly condemns the grave human rights violations” by the Syrian authorities. It also “stresses the need for an international, transparent, independent and prompt investigation into alleged violations of international” law and decides to “urgently dispatch an independent international commission of inquiry” to Syria, with instructions to report back by the end of November.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt in the mind of anyone that the situation has deteriorated significantly,” Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, the U.S. ambassador to the Human Rights Council, told reporters before today’s meeting.

“There’s growing unity and resolve that Assad must go,” Donahoe said. “He’s lost the legitimacy to rule the Syrian people.  This special session that we are about to hold was called for by a strong majority of council members, well above the number we needed to call a special session. Importantly, we have the support of four Arab neighbors of Syria: Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan.”

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