Britain pushes EU to take new sanctions on Iran over Syria aid
Britain has pushed the EU into taking new sanctions against Iran for its role in providing weapons and support for Bashar al-Assad's bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Syria.
New travel bans and asset freezes against 22 individuals and "entities" linked to repression in Syria will be announced at a summit of EU leaders on Friday.
Included on a list of seven people directly linked to President Assad's repression are three Iranians included after a campaign by Britain to highlight Tehran's aid to the Syrian dictator.
"This sends a clear message to the government of Iran that its provision of equipment and technical advice to help the Syrian regime quash protests is unacceptable," said a EU diplomat.
"Iran's actions are in stark contrast to the will of the Syrian people and are another example of its blatant hypocrisy in claiming to support freedom in the Arab world."
Britain, with the backing of France, has accused Iran of "providing military equipment and support to help the regime suppress protests in Syria"The increased EU sanctions will take the number of people and companies hit by asset freezes to 45, including Mr Assad himself and members of his family and inner circle.
Over 1,400 civilians have been killed and at least 10,000 people arrested after the Syrian regime sent troops and tanks to crush revolt in cities across Syria over the last two months.
Walid Muallem, the Syrian foreign minister, on Wednesday described EU sanctions as an act of "war" against his country.
"No one outside can impose on us their point of view," he said.
"The world is not only Europe. We will forget that Europe exists on the map. They have begun imposing a series of sanctions that today are hitting the livelihood of Syrians, which is equivalent to war."
Mr Muallem denied that Syria had received any assistance from Iran, its close regional ally, or Lebanon's militant group Hizbollah and described protesters as terrorist.
"I cannot hide the fact that some of the practices that we have seen in the killings of security personnel gives an indication that these acts were carried out by al-Qaeda," he said.More