Syrian media denounce EU, US sanctions
(DAMASCUS) - Syria's media on Tuesday slammed as "plots" sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United States on President Bashar al-Assad for his regime's brutal repression of protests.
The government newspaper Al-Thawra said Washington had applied the sanctions under the pretence of seeking to push forward reforms in Syria.
"Under the guise of defending human rights and of establishing American democracy, plots have been hatched to serve the interests of the United States at the expense of others," it said.
The ruling party's daily Al-Baath noted: "The sanctions ignore the package of reforms adopted, such as the abolition of the state of emergency, nationality being given to the Kurds and procedures aimed allowing more political parties.
"The Europeans ignored these measures in order to implement their agenda in the region," it added.
At the height of the uprising, Assad revoked emergency rule in force since the ruling Baath party came to power nearly 50 years ago.
Despite this, however, it continued to regulate demonstrations and punish protesters.
The European Union on Tuesday imposed sanctions including a travel ban and an assets-freeze against 10 regime figures, including President Assad and the chief of staff of the armed forces Dawud Rahija.
The 10 joined 13 other members of the regime to whom the same measures had already been applied on May 10.
Assad, who has only made two public appearances since the uprising began, heads the updated list published in the EU's Official Journal.
The announcement draws a line under nearly a month of difficult negotiations among EU member-states on whether or not to punish Assad, while according to NGOs and the UN, the crackdown has left more than 900 dead, led to thousands of arrests and forced thousands of Syrians to flee.
The Europeans "erred when they attacked the president and when they adopted sanctions that harm the Syrian people," Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told state television Monday.
"Europe needs us as we need them," Muallem said. "These measures will harm Syria's interests as they will those of Europe and Syria will not remain silent to this."
Despite the loss of hundreds of lives, the popular uprising in Syria shows little sign of flagging as it enters its third month, yet the autocratic regime in Damascus continues to defy international pressure to stop silencing protesters by force, instead decrying foreign "interference" in its affairs.
On the ground, security forces and the army are laying siege to several restive cities, including Homs, Banias and Daraa, whence little information is available since Damascus ordered a media black-out and imposed stringent restrictions on foreign reporters.
US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, meanwhile, joined Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague Monday in calling upon Assad to "stop the killings, the beatings, the arrests; release all political prisoners and detainees; begin to respond to the demands that are upon you for a process of credible and inclusive democratic change."
The United States applied sanctions on President Assad last week, with US President Barack Obama suggesting Assad should "lead that transition or get out of the way."
The Europeans did not go as far, refraining from discussing Assad's departure, although the EU said if the Syrian regime does not change tack "rapidly", it was "ready to take further measures without delay".
However, human rights group Amnesty International said the "danger is that this will prove to be too little too late," calling upon the United Nations Security Council to take "tougher action against Syria".
Discussions are continuing at the United Nations, but the "threat of a Russian veto" still remains, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said.
More than 40 protesters were shot dead by security forces on Friday during demonstrations in cities across the country, activists said.
Two days of funerals followed, as well as further, lesser demonstrations, they said.
Text and Picture Copyright 2011 AFP. All other Copyright 2011 EUbusiness Ltd. All rights reserved. This material is intended solely for personal use. Any other reproduction, publication or redistribution of this material without the written agreement of the copyright owner is strictly forbidden and any breach of copyright will be considered actionable.