Spanish PM urges support for Syrian opposition
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has said the international community should support Syrians opposed to President Bashar al-Assad, following the success of UN-backed action in Libya.
"Libya is undergoing a historic moment which paves the way for the development of democracy", after 42 years of iron-fisted rule by Moamer Kadhafi, Zapatero said in a statement late Thursday.
"This example should extend to other countries like Syria (where people are) fighting for freedom and to whom the international community should give its wholehearted backing," he said.
"The international community has shown that when it is united, that when the United Nations enforces the decisions taken by its Security Council, it can achieve its objectives in a few months after 42 years of the Kadhafi regime."
The statement was issued after world leaders meeting in Paris unblocked $15 billion in funds to help Libya's rebels rebuild their shattered country.
In Paris, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the world community should escalate pressure on Assad by targeting Syria's oil and gas exports to force him from office.
"The violence must stop and he needs to step aside," Clinton told reporters.
Assad's regime has defied Western sanctions over its deadly crackdown on dissent, blaming "armed terrorist gangs" for the violence.
The United Nations says that more than 2,200 people have been killed since the beginning of near-daily protests across the country against Assad's regime in mid-March.
"Syria must be allowed to move forward," Clinton said. "Those who have joined us in this call must now translate our rhetoric into concrete action to escalate the pressure on Assad and those around him."
This pressure must include "strong new sanctions targeting Syria's energy sector to deny the regime the revenues that fund its campaign of violence."
The European Union is to formally adopt a ban on Syrian oil imports on Friday, but the embargo will not take effect until November 15 for existing contracts after Italy insisted on a delay, according to diplomats in Brussels.
© 2011 AFP