Italy recalls ambassador to Syria

AP , Tuesday 2 Aug 2011

Italy recalls its ambassador to Syria, citing Damascus' "horrible repression" of anti-government protests, and urges other EU nations to do the same


Syria's current crackdown on demonstrations has led the European Union to expand its sanctions against the country, imposing asset freezes and travel bans against five more military and government officials on Monday. Sanctions already included President Bashar Assad.

The government launched a new push against protesters as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began, killing dozens, according to human rights groups.

Rome made the move "in order to send a strong signal of condemnation for the inacceptable repression," said an Italian Foreign Ministry undersecretary, Stefania Craxi.

Craxi said Assad appeared "incapable" of handling the situation and implementing the serious reforms that both his citizens and the international community demand, the ANSA news agency reported. Craxi was briefing lawmakers on the situation in Syria.

Rome will also suspend cooperative programs with Damascus, save for humanitarian aid destined to Iraqi refugees, Craxi said, according to ANSA.

On Monday, Syrian forces shelled the city of Hama for a second day and fired at worshippers heading to Ramadan prayers. Violence on Sunday left 74 people dead throughout the country, 55 of them from Hama and nearby, according to rights groups.

President Barack Obama said the latest attacks were "outrageous."

More than 1,600 civilians have been killed in a crackdown on largely peaceful protests since a popular uprising began in Syria in mid-March.

The EU said Tuesday that people targeted in its expanded sanctions' list include Syria's defense minister, Ali Habib Mahmud, and the head of the army's internal security, Maj. Gen. Tawfiq Younes.

The list brings the number of targeted individuals to 35. Four government entities are also on the list.

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