Syria crisis: EU sanctions on Asma al-Assad

EU foreign ministers have imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on the British-born wife of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and other family members.

Asma al-Assad is among 12 people added to the sanctions list, which already includes her husband.

The ban cannot stop her from travelling to the UK, British officials say.

Anti-government activists accuse the regime of killing thousands of protesters over the past year.

In recent weeks, the Damascus government has stepped up its efforts to crush pockets of rebellion in cities including Homs and Hama.

Every day, activists report dozens of deaths and more protests.


The envoy for the UN and the Arab League, Kofi Annan, is to travel to Moscow and Beijing this weekend for talks on the crisis, his office said.

Russia and China have vetoed two UN Security Council resolutions on Syria for fear that intervention could lead to regime change, as happened in Libya last year.

Mr Assad has promised political reform, but observers and his opponents have dismissed his plans as window-dressing.

The latest round of EU sanctions has added Mrs Assad, as well as Mr Assad's mother, sister and sister-in-law.

"With this new listing we are striking at the heart of the Assad clan, sending out a loud and clear message to Mr Assad: he should step down," Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal said, quoted by Reuters news agency.

The BBC's Chris Morris in Brussels says for years there was a perception that Mrs Assad's Western upbringing could encourage reform in Syria.

The 36-year-old, who is of Syrian descent, was born in the UK and spent much of her life in west London. The UK Border Agency has confirmed that Mrs Assad is British.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said he did not think Mrs Assad would be travelling to the UK any time soon.

"British nationals, British passport holders do obviously have a right of entry to the United Kingdom," he said.

"But given that we are imposing an asset freeze on all of these individuals, and a travel ban on other members of the same family and the regime, we're not expecting Mrs Assad to try to travel to the United Kingdom at the moment," he said.

Mrs Assad, who worked as an investment banker in the City of London before her marriage in 2000, has generally played a low-key role in the regime.

However, in February she wrote to Britain's Times newspaper to explain why she thought her husband was still the right man to lead Syria.

The EU already has extensive sanctions in place against Syria. These include a ban on arms sales and imports of Syrian oil.

Last week activists released some 3,000 emails they said were from private accounts belonging to Mr Assad and his wife.

The messages, which have not been independently verified, suggested Mrs Assad continued to shop online for luxury goods even after the uprising was in full swing.

The UN says at least 8,000 people have died since the uprising against Mr Assad's regime began in March 2011.

The president and his allies say terrorist and armed gangs are behind the violence, and say hundreds of security personnel have been killed fighting them.