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Why Royal Dutch Shell oil is pulling out of Syria

Royal Dutch Shell said Friday that it will shut down all oil operations in Syria. On Friday, Syrian troops fired at anti-Assad demonstrators near Homs, Syria.

By Douglas HamiltonReuters / December 2, 2011

Pro-Syrian regime protesters gather in Damascus, Syria, on Friday Dec. 2, 2011. Royal Dutch Shell oil said it was leaving due to new EU sanctions.

(AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi)

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Beirut

Royal Dutch Shell said on Friday it would cease operations in Syria Syria to heed new European Union sanctions against Damascus, deepening the international isolation of President Bashar al-Assad imposed over his violent crackdown on popular unrest.

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In continuing bloodshed, Syrian army defectors killed eight Air Force intelligence personnel in an attack on their base in the north of the country, according to an opposition group.

Thursday's incident suggested that armed deserters are turning increasingly from defending civilian protesters against violent repression by Assad's security forces to an offensive of ambushes and roadside bombs, raising the spectre of civil war.

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On Friday, Syrian troops fired at random into an anti-Assad demonstration after Muslim prayers in the village of Kfar Laha northwest of the city of Homs, killing one man and wounding 10 people, opposition activists said.

Western and Arab countries have been intensifying punitive sanctions to press Assad to carry out pledges to halt bloodshed by withdrawing forces from restive cities, admitting Arab League observers and starting transition talks with the opposition.

Royal Dutch Shell said it would be shutting down in Syria to comply with EU sanctions slapped on Syria's economically vital oil and financial sectors the day before.

A Shell spokesman said: "Our main priority is the safety of our employees ... We hope the situation improves quickly for all Syrians."

The EU on Friday extended sanctions to three Syrian oil concerns, including the state-owned General Petroleum Corporation (GPC) and Syria Trading Oil (Sytrol), to crank up the financial pressure on the Assad government.

The three oil concerns were among 11 entities and 12 Syrian leadership figures added to an EU blacklist now aimed in part at bringing the Syrian ventures of oil giants to a halt. Royal Dutch Shell was the first to bow out. [ID: nL5E7K50S9]

Syrian oil comprises under 1 percent of daily world output but accounts for a big chunk of Syrian government earnings.

The expanded EU sanctions list encompasses media companies and firms the EU says supply sensitive equipment to a research centre that supports Assad's suppression of dissent. The United States and the Arab League have also imposed an array of economic sanctions and banned travel by some Syrian VIPs.

CALL FOR INTERNATIONAL ACTION

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for international action to protect Syria's civilian population from "continual ruthless repression that, if not stopped now, can drive the country into a full-fledged civil war".

More than 4,000 people have been killed, including 307 children, in the military crackdown on unrest since March and more than 14,000 people are believed to be held in detention, she told an emergency session of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

"In light of the manifest failure of the Syrian authorities to protect their citizens, the international community needs to take urgent and effective measures to protect the Syrian people," Pillay said in Geneva. "All acts of murder, torture and other forms of violence must be immediately stopped.

Pillay did not spell out what measures world powers should take. Russian and Chinese envoys, whose governments have blocked tougher U.N. sanctions on Syria, brushed aside her appeal.

"We would like to warn against illegal interference by outside forces even under the pretext of protecting human rights. "This will have serious and unforeseen consequences," Russia's Valery Loshchinin told the Council session.

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