EU to Sanction Syrian Officials

Reuters

The European Union agreed on Friday to impose sanctions on up to 14 Syrians for their part in a government crackdown against protesters, but President Bashar al-Assad was not among those immediately targeted.

After a meeting of EU ambassadors, the 27-country bloc said it would impose travel restrictions and asset freezes on 13 Syrian officials immediately, and one other.

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Further consideration was being given to the inclusion of "the highest level of leadership" in the coming days. The defence minister was also not listed.

If no member state objects over the weekend, the measures will formally be approved on Monday and are expected to be published in the EU's Official Journal, making them law, on May 10. The list could be updated before then, diplomats said.

The restrictions do not include any move against Syria's oil industry or its exports, but follow a move last week to impose an embargo on any arms being transported to Syria.

"There is an agreement in principle," an EU official said of the asset freeze and travel ban decision. "It would be adopted probably officially early next week."

Assad, grappling with the most serious challenge to his 11-year rule, has sent in the military to crush demonstrators who have been inspired by anti-government revolts in the Middle East and North Africa. 1/8nLDE7450LV 3/8

Human rights groups say the army, security forces and gunmen loyal to Assad have killed at least 560 demonstrators since the protests erupted on March 18.

(Reporting by Luke Baker, David Brunnstrom and Ilona Wissenbach; Editing by Rex Merrifield)

((justyna.pawlak@reuters.com; +32 2 287 6853; Reuters Messaging: justyna.pawlak.reuters.com@reuters.net))