Syria's isolation will intensify: British minister

7th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Syria's isolation will intensify if Damascus fails to stop killing protesters, the British Foreign Office's minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, said on Wednesday.

"These killings must stop," Burt told AFP in Tripoli, where he relaunched the British Council which had been closed during the armed revolt against Moamer Kadhafi's regime.

Burt welcomed the Arab League's decision to impose sanctions on the Syrian government.

"The sanctions on Syria by the Arab League are most important. Such sanctions will continue. The isolation of Syria will continue and intensify," he warned.

The minister expressed hope that Russia, allied with Syria since the Soviet era, would also be "encouraged" to back such moves.

The Arab League approved on November 27 an initial wave of sweeping sanctions against Syria's government over its deadly protest crackdown -- the first time the bloc has enforced such punitive measures against a member state.

Measures included an immediate freeze on transactions with Damascus and its central bank and of Syrian regime assets in Arab countries.

Moscow is the main arms supplier to Damascus and stubbornly refuses to join the chorus of condemnation of the crackdown.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, meanwhile, in a US television interview released Wednesday denied ordering the killing of protesters, saying that "only a crazy person" would do so.

Speaking to ABC News, Assad questioned the UN death toll of more than 4,000 in the unrest and said most victims were government supporters. He also brushed aside international sanctions and said Syria had launched democratic reforms.

Witnesses and human rights groups say Syrian forces have used intense force and torture to crush the biggest threat to the Assad family's four-decade rule.

Burt also said Libya, which has witnessed a brutal revolution that saw Kadhafi captured and then killed, also faced challenges including the disarming of former rebels.

"The main challenge for Libya now is how to maintain stability and security. On the security front it has to have a programme on how to take the arms off the streets," Burt said.

On Tuesday, Libya's interim government gave its firm support to a Tripoli city council deadline of disarming the former rebels by December 31.

The council also proposed that militias who were from outside Tripoli but still operating in the capital must leave the city by December 20 or else the council would lock down the capital.

© 2011 AFP

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