UK plays down Syria oil ban proposal

Britain today reacted coolly to the prospect of the European Union imposing a ban on oil imports from Syria.

Following the co-ordinated call by western leaders for President Bashar al-Assad to stand down, the EU is planning to discuss extending sanctions against the regime.

However Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt played down suggestions that the EU could follow the lead given by US President Barack Obama in banning Syrian oil imports.

He stressed sanctions should target the regime without hurting the Syrian people. Europe is the main market for Syrian oil and the government in Damascus has warned the ordinary population would suffer if imports are blocked.

"We have been in the vanguard of encouraging the EU to take action against individuals and entities who support the regime in order to avoid the difficulty of taking sanctions against the Syrian people," Mr Burt told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"Our view is that sanctions must continue to be targeted on those who support the regime and sanctions should be considered on the basis of what will have most effect on changing that situation or improving the situation for the Syrian people.

"We have not taken a decision on oil. It has got to be discussed because to be effective it has got to work collectively with the rest of the EU.

"What we have got to do, and what we are doing, is increasing the pressure in a manner which does not enable a Syrian spokesman to say 'You are damaging the Syrian people."' PA