Dozens killed in Hama just one day after visit by UN


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The Independent Online

At least 35 people were reported dead by the Local Co-ordination Committees in shelling in the Mashaa al-Arbaeen suburb of Hama yesterday, a day after the UN team visited the city and activists said tanks had been hidden from view.

The European Union yesterday also agreed a new round of sanctions that will ban the sale of luxury goods to the country. The sanctions, formally approved by the EU's 27 foreign ministers in Luxembourg yesterday, also placed restrictions on the export of dual-use products that can be used to repress civilians. They came as activists reported a large-scale assault on the central city of Hama.

Restricting luxury-goods exports is a largely symbolic move after a cache of private emails published last month appeared to show that President Bashar al-Assad and his British-born wife had spent tens of thousands of pounds on handmade furniture from Chelsea stores, gem-encrusted jewellery from Paris, chandeliers and fine art, while government troops carried out a brutal crackdown in Homs.

European diplomats said the measures were a direct response to the continued violations of a ceasefire, despite the presence of UN observers. "It is very important to keep up that pressure, step up that pressure," William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, said. "They are not in full compliance of the ceasefire requirement."

The details of the goods covered by the EU sanctions will be decided in the coming weeks, but dual-use products that could be included range from vehicles and mechanical parts to fertilisers and chemicals.

Syria's First Lady Asma al-Assad may find it more difficult to import the latest designer shoes or jewellery from her favourite boutiques in Paris and London in wake of the sanctions, which are likely to follow a similar framework to those imposed by the EU on North Korea in 2007 which covered things such as pure-bred horses, golf clubs, caviar, truffles and high-quality shoes, but have been largely ineffectual.