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EU expands Syrian sanctions to include Assad's fashionable British wife

The European Union has announced that it will freeze the assets of four members of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's family, including his British wife Asma.

By Correspondent / March 23, 2012

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma vote during a referendum on a new constitution at a polling station in a Syrian TV station building in Damascus, last month. The European Union announced Friday that it would impose sanctions on four members of Assad's family, including his fashionable British wife Asma.

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In an effort to increase pressure on the Syrian regime, the European Union announced today that it would impose sanctions on four members of President Bashar al-Assad’s family, including his British wife Asma. Others targeted are said to include the president’s mother and sister-in-law.

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The EU will officially announce everyone targeted by the sanctions on Saturday, when they come into effect. This marks the 12th round of EU sanctions against the Syrian regime, and will freeze any assets currently being held in banks of the 27 EU nations and impose a travel ban in the EU. Previous sanctions have targeted about 150 firms and individuals, reports Al Arabiya. Mr. Assad has been targeted by sanctions since May last year.

Today's expansion of the sanctions is designed to further isolate those in the Syrian regime responsible for the bloody crackdown that the UN estimates has cost the lives of at least 8,000 people. In addition to targeting family members, this latest round of sanctions is expected to also go after eight Syrian ministers and two oil groups.

Mrs. Assad, a former investment banker and a British citizen, drew harsh criticisms recently when the Guardian revealed that while her husband was involved in a brutal crackdown against Syrian dissidents, she was going on lavish shopping sprees. Her purchases includes thousands of dollars of jewels, shoes, furniture from Harrods – and even Harry Potter books for her children.

“[The] behavior [of the Assad regime] continues to be murdering and totally unacceptable in the eyes of the world,” said William Hague, Britain's foreign secretary, in an article by the Financial Times.

But despite the travel ban, British officials report that they will not be able go prevent Mrs. Assad from entering the United Kingdom.

“British citizens subject to EU travel bans cannot be refused entry to the UK," said a UK Border Agency spokesperson in an article by Al Jazeera.

Since the uprising began one year ago, Mrs. Assad – the subject of a Vogue profile last year – has seen a marked fall in popularity. The BBC reports that many observers thought her Western background and upbringing would lead to reforms in Syria. During the course of the Syrian revolt, she has stood by her husband, even writing a letter to the UK’s Times saying that she still felt her husband was the right man to lead Syria.

Meanwhile, it remains unclear how much help such sanctions will provide for Syrian opposition forces. Despite increased international pressure on Assad’s regime, the rebels say they have yet to see the promises of foreign support materialize. Additionally, with neighboring countries increasing the border restrictions, rebels report that they are having a difficult time resupplying.

“Day after day, the Free Syrian Army keeps fighting and fighting, but day after day, we are running out of ammunition, and, eventually, we just have to leave our area,” said Abu Yazen, a soldier who defected from the Syrian Army to join the rebel forces this summer in an article by the Washington Post. He fled to Turkey this month with five other fighters when they ran out of ammunition fighting in the northern region of Syria along the Turkish border.

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