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EU Widens Syria Sanctions With Central Bank Asset Freeze

The European Union tightened sanctions on Syria by freezing the Syrian central bank’s assets and banning trade in precious metals and diamonds with the country.

EU governments also prohibited Syrian cargo-only flights to the bloc as part of the tougher penalties against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for its continued violent crackdown on civilian opponents. In addition, they imposed a visa ban and an asset freeze on seven Syrian ministers.

“Today’s decisions will put further pressure on those who are responsible for the ruthless campaign of repression in Syria,” EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement in Brussels after her national counterparts in the bloc endorsed the penalties. “The measures target the regime and its ability to conduct the appalling violence against civilians.”

The 27-nation EU’s new penalties, which build on an oil embargo approved last September, will take effect after being published tomorrow in the bloc’s Official Journal. Ashton held out the possibility of further EU sanctions against Syria, where, according to television reports, a referendum yesterday on a new constitution hasn’t interrupted attacks by Syrian forces.

“As long as the repression continues, the EU will keep imposing sanctions,” Ashton said.

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