Germany has summoned the Syrian ambassador to Berlin as the threat of intensified sanctions looms over the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Syria remains tense as a crackdown on protesters continues.
Protests have continued in a clutch of cities around Syria
Several European countries, including Germany, summoned a clutch of Syrian ambassadors on Wednesday as Europe threatened to intensify sanctions against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad if it continued to repress protests against his rule.
Andreas Peschke, a spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry, said the measure was part of "a concerted European action" to pressure Damascus into easing the opposition crackdown.
Peschke said European officials would reiterate sanctions already imposed on Syria and make clear that "a second package that also includes the Syrian leadership" would quickly follow if Syria did not immediately change course.
The European Union has already imposed an arms embargo on Syria as well as an assets freeze and visa ban on 13 of its nationals associated with the military crackdown. The sanctions do not currently impact President Assad directly.
Human rights groups claim that more than 600 people have been killed and 8,000 are either missing or have been imprisoned during the eight-week crackdown on protesters.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday that Assad must "renounce excessive use of force and the mass arrest of peaceful demonstrators."
The Syrian government has come down hard on the protest movement
Ban said Syrian authorities must take the "freedom demands" of the protesters seriously and end the violence engulfing the country, adding that he was disappointed Assad had refused to allow UN humanitarian workers into the country.
Flashpoint cities tense
Clashes in anti-government hot spots continued midweek with reports of shelling and heavy gunfire in the western city of Homs.
The state news agency SANA reported Wednesday that security agents arrested dozens of "wanted men and seized large quantities of weapons and ammunition in the Bab Amr neighborhood" of Homs and in the southern town of Deraa, both of which have risen as hotbeds of dissent.
The army also kept up its presence in the Mediterranean coastal city of Banias, scouting for "protest organizers yet to be arrested," Rami Abdul Rahman of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told news agency Agence-France Presse.
"A tank has been stationed since Tuesday night on the square where Banias demonstrations are held," he said, adding that the northern port remained encircled by the army after weekend arrests put some 450 people behind bars.
Author: Darren Mara (AFP, AP)
Editor: Martin Kuebler