Britain summons Syrian envoy, warns of new sanctions

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Britain summoned the Syrian ambassador Friday in coordination with other EU nations to warn of fresh sanctions against the regime if it fails to stop a crackdown on protesters.

In a statement, the Foreign Office said it had "called in the Syrian Ambassador Dr Sami Khiyami... to express the UK's strong concerns about the ongoing situation in Syria."

Foreign Office political director Geoffrey Adams told him that "unless the Syrian government stopped the killing of protestors and released political prisoners, the UK along with its EU partners would take further measures to hold the regime to account."

"These measures would include further sanctions targeted at the highest levels of the regime, including travel bans and asset freezing," the statement added.

Adams also called on Damascus to respect human rights including freedom of expression and urged Syria to allow UN access to besieged protest-hit Syrian cities including Deraa.

A Foreign Office spokesman told AFP it was "part of a coordinated EU move" but did not say how many other countries were involved. Five EU nations summoned the Syrian ambassadors to their countries in April.

Last month Britain withdrew Khiyami's invitation to the royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine.

The European Union on Tuesday enforced sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's brother and inner circle, and warned the Syrian leader that he could be next.

It slapped Assad's younger brother Maher al-Assad and 13 other senior officials including four of the president's cousins with an asset freeze and travel ban as part of a package of measures, including an arms embargo.

Britain's action came shortly after Damascus said the Syrian army had started to pull out out of the coastal region of Banias where it deployed in force last week to put down anti-regime protests.

Syria's military said it started to pull out of the town of Deraa on May 5, 10 days after sending in tanks and troops during a deadly sweep against regime opponents.

© 2011 AFP

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