Germany warns Syria may face tighter EU sanctions

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German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle warned Syria on Tuesday that it would face tighter European Union sanctions if it continues its brutal crackdown against anti-government protests.

"The sanctions decided (by the EU) are a first step. If Damascus continues its crackdown, we will step up the pressure and we will tighten the sanctions," he said in a statement.

Earlier Tuesday, the EU published a list of 13 Syrian officials, including the younger brother of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, subject to sanctions for their involvement in repression.

Maher al-Assad, 43, head of the Republican Guard, was described as the prime mover of the crackdown on anti-government protestors.

The names of the officials hit by visa bans and assets freezes were published after the EU formally adopted the sanctions on Monday to punish the regime for a crackdown that rights groups say has left hundreds dead.

The 27-nation bloc also imposed an arms embargo and ban on equipment that can be used for internal repression.

The sanctions aimed to bring about an immediate change of policy by the Syrian leadership, an end to violence and the swift introduction of "genuine and comprehensive political reform," EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Monday.

"These sanctions are an unmistakable signal from Europe to Syrian leaders that they must immediately stop their brutal attacks on demonstrators and the abusive jailing of opponents," Westerwelle said Tuesday.

Diplomatic sources said the Syrian president was spared for now due to divisions within the EU over whether it was appropriate to target him.

© 2011 AFP

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