EU set for new Syria sanctions; death toll mounts as gov’t says thwarted bomb attempt


The European Union is set to slap new sanctions on Syria, imposing an assets’ freeze and visa ban on two firms and three people, EU diplomats said Friday amid reports that the Syrian troops have killed a would-be suicide bomber in Aleppo.

They said the measures targeting “mainly sources of revenue for the regime” would be decided at talks between EU foreign ministers next Monday.

“There is an agreement in principle” between ambassadors of the 27-nation bloc on a 15th round of sanctions against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

The last round, agreed only last month, targeted the high-end lifestyle of the Assad couple and regime supporters.

“The EU will continue its policy of imposing additional measures targeting the regime ... as long as repression continues,” ministers said at the time in a statement.

Foiling a suicide bombing attempt

Meanwhile, Syrian troops killed a would-be suicide bomber in the northern city of Aleppo on Friday, a day after devastating bomb blasts in Damascus, state television reported.

“Syrian authorities have foiled an attempted suicide attack in al-Shaar area of Aleppo and killed the would-be attacker,” the channel said.

It said the would-be attacker’s car was laden with 1,200 kilos (2,640 pounds) of explosives.

The report came as thousands of people demonstrated against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo and other towns and cities across the country, monitors said.

Anti-regime activists dismissed the official account of a foiled attack as “a lie,” according to Aleppo-based activist Mohammed al-Halabi.

“It is not in the interests of the (rebel) Free Syrian Army to stage attacks on a Friday,” the day of weekly mass anti-regime protests over the past 14 months, Halabi told AFP.

“The regime is trying to make people believe there is al-Qaeda here, but there is no al-Qaeda here,” he said.

Death toll mounts

At least 13 people have been reportedly killed by Syrian forces acro9ss the country, activists at the Local Coordination Committees told Al Arabiya.

Defying heavy troop deployments, protesters took to the streets of Idlib province in northwest Syria, Hama in the center as well as the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, the Observatory said.

In the Hama region, troops shot and wounded 20 demonstrators in the town of Helfaya, where two civilians were killed in a raid, according to the Britain-based group.

Regime forces in the northern city of Aleppo fired at demonstrators in the Salaheddin neighborhood, said the Local Coordination Committees, a network of activists.

World powers condemned Thursday’s attacks that targeted a military intelligence building and urged both sides to the conflict to adhere to the ceasefire brokered by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

The 15 U.N. Security Council members urged the regime and rebels to “immediately and comprehensively” implement Annan’s six-point peace plan, “in particular to cease all armed violence”.

U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon, who earlier this week warned of possible civil war if Annan’s plan failed, also renewed a call for all sides to cease violence and “to distance themselves from indiscriminate bombings and other terrorist acts.”

Syria’s U.N. envoy, meanwhile, said British, French and Belgian nationals were among foreign fighters killed in the country’s escalating conflict and that there was Al-Qaeda involvement.

Ambassador Bashar Jaafari told the Security Council that 12 foreign fighters had been killed and 26 detained in recent clashes with Syrian forces, “including one French citizen, one British citizen, one Belgian citizen”.

A list of the 26 detained had been sent to Ban and the Security Council.

Neeraj Singh, spokesman for the U.N. observer mission overseeing the putative truce, said 105 monitors had so far arrived in Syria out of an expected total of 300, and had been deployed in flashpoints including central Homs and Idlib.

“Where we have our military observers on the ground, they have had a calming effect on the situation,” Singh said. “At the same time, we have seen a worrying trend of improvised explosive devices being used.”