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EU beefs up Syria sanctions

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EU beefs up Syria sanctions

Bashar al-Assad

(BRUSSELS) - EU foreign ministers slapped fresh sanctions on Syria, including a freeze on its central bank assets Monday, as France suggested the Syrian regime be dragged before an international court.

"We are doing all we can to bring the widest possible weight to bear on the Syrian regime and increase the stranglehold on it," said British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Moves to further restrict the regime's access to finance were key, he added at talks with his 26 European Union counterparts.

"These are important new measures," Hague said. "If the Syrians think we are relaxing they're mistaken. We are intensifying our efforts."

Measures decided by the ministers also included an assets freeze and travel ban on seven Syrian ministers, whose identities will be issued Tuesday.

The EU has already blacklisted almost 150 Syrian entities and people.

Also among the new restrictive measures, the 12th round of EU sanctions so far against President Bashar al-Assad's regime, was a ban on trade in gold and precious metals.

Cargo flights to the EU operated by Syrians will not be allowed to land, but should they be carrying passengers they will be given access to EU nations.

"We will maintain the pressure" through more sanctions, said French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, who slammed the regime's controversial weekend vote on a new constitution as "a sinister masquerade."

"It's disgraceful because at the same time bombs are falling on Homs and other cities," he said.

"We must maintain the pressure because the regime continues its repression," Juppe added.

With more than 7,600 people killed in the regime's unrelenting violence against protesters, the French minister said he would plead for legal action against the regime at a meeting in Geneva of the UN Human Rights Council.

Juppe said he hoped to see the international community reflect on the conditions of a referral to the International Criminal Court.

"This is a difficult dossier," he said, adding that as Syria was not a party to the Rome convention establishing the court, the ICC could not initiate action itself so it would be up to the UN Security Council to refer the matter.

That in itself would be difficult due to the support offered there to Syria by China and Russia.

"These sanctions do show effect," said Austria's Michael Spindelegger.

Some nations had also urged a ban on phosphate exports from Syria as the EU accounts for 40 percent of those. But Greece, which is one of the main buyers, opposed the ban, sources said.

Nations doing extensive business with Syria also argued against full sanctions against the central bank, fearing that such measures would halt all trade and impact on the Syrian people.

3149th FOREIGN AFFAIRS Council meeting (provisional version) - Brussels, 27 February 201

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