3 Sep 2011

EU steps up pressure on Syria with oil ban

9:16 am on 3 September 2011

The European Union has stepped up sanctions on Syria by banning imports of its oil, as protests again broke out against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

Oil accounts for about 25% of Syria's income and EU member states take about 95% of its oil exports.

Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal says the sanctions will "go straight to the heart of the regime".

The United States has already banned the import of Syrian oil.

Meanwhile, at least 14 people were reportedly killed as protesters again came out in force across the country. Activists say seven died in suburbs of the capital, Damascus; four in the central city of Homs; and another three in Deir al-Zour in the east.

The biggest demonstrations appeared to have been in Homs and Hama, where videos showed protesters dancing in the streets and chanting for their freedom.

The United Nations says more than 2200 people have been killed since pro-democracy demonstrations began in mid-March.

No sign of protests stopping

The BBC reports the latest sanctions are only from the EU, so the Syrians could find outlets on other markets. They represent an attempt by Western governments to be seen to be doing something - to use rhetoric, sanctions, everything short of military action to give the impression of being really serious about pressing for change in Syria.

There is no real indication such actions have made Mr Assad any weaker now than when the uprising started.

But the protesters have been out on the streets for nearly six months now and show no sign whatsoever of stopping. The president has not got control of the streets and it is unclear that he will be able to regain it.