William Hague pledge over Syria culprits

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The Independent Online

Those responsible for the bloody crackdown on anti-government demonstrators in Syria will be "singled out and held accountable", Foreign Secretary William Hague warned today.

Mr Hague denounced repression in the city of Hama as "appalling" and said the UK would press for further European Union sanctions against the regime of President Bashar Assad.

Reports today said that Syrian troops had advanced into new positions in Hama, a stronghold of resistance to the Assad regime which has come under violent military assault since tanks were sent in on Sunday.

The EU yesterday agreed to extend asset freezes and travel bans on key officials and ministers in Assad's government, including defence minister Ali Habib, Syria's head of internal security, and the head of intelligence in Hama.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights today said 24 people were killed by government forces yesterday, most of them in Hama.

A total of around 100 people are thought to have been killed over the past two days across Syria, adding to a civilian death-toll which activists believe has reached about 1,700 since the start of largely peaceful protests in March.

Italy today recalled its ambassador to Damascus and urged other EU nations to do the same, citing "horrible repression" of civilians. US president Barack Obama has described the latest attacks as "outrageous".

In a statement issued by the Foreign Office, Mr Hague indicated that Assad and his key advisers will be held personally responsible for the bloodshed.

The Foreign Secretary said: "Today further EU targeted sanctions on Syria come into force.

"The message is clear and unambiguous: those responsible for the repression will be singled out and held accountable.

"The appalling crackdown that we witnessed in Hama and other Syrian cities on 30 and 31 July only erode the regime's legitimacy and increase resentment.

"In the absence of an end to the senseless violence and a genuine process of political reform, we will continue to pursue further EU sanctions.

"Unless there is meaningful change in Syria and an end to the crackdown, President Assad and those around him will find themselves isolated internationally and discredited within Syria."

The United Nations Security Council met behind closed doors last night to discuss the situation in Syria.

Following the meeting, India's UN ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri - who is the Security Council's president - said he detected "a certain convergence of thinking, concern about the escalating violence".

He said members would meet again today to discuss options including a possible draft resolution.