* Ministers say EU had to act against repression
* US extended sanctions to include Assad last week
BRUSSELS, May 23 (Reuters) - The European Union imposed
sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and other senior
officials on Monday, raising pressure on his government to end
weeks of violence against protesters.
EU foreign ministers agreed at a meeting in Brussels to
expand restrictions against Syria by adding Assad and around a
dozen other senior members of the government to a list of those
banned from travelling to the EU and subject to asset freezes.
"Technically, the legal act has been accepted," one EU
diplomat said, adding EU foreign ministers would still discuss
the move at the meeting on Monday.
Germany's foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, said it was
necessary to move against Syria's top leaders.
"If someone represses his own people like that, responds to
peaceful demonstrations with force, this can't be left
unanswered by the European Union," he said.
Syrian security forces killed six people in the city of Homs
on Saturday during a funeral for those killed in the latest
crackdown on protesters demonstrating against Assad's rule,
Human rights groups estimate that more than 700 civilians
have been killed by security forces as they attempt to suppress
nearly two months of popular protests that have spread from
southern Syria to towns across the country.
Syrian authorities have blamed most of the violence on armed
groups backed by Islamists and foreign powers, who they say have
killed more than 120 members of the security forces.
Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal said it was important
to maintain pressure to ensure "fundamental change" in Syria.
He said imposing sanctions on Assad and his entourage was "a
clear signal that we will not condone his policy of violence and
"He has to make the choice now," he said.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said extending
sanctions to Assad was the right thing to do.
"The repression in Syria continues and it is important to
see the right to peaceful process and the release of political
prisoners and taking the path of reform, not repression," he
The United States extended sanctions to Assad and six senior
officials on Wednesday in an escalation of pressure on his
government to halt its bloody crackdown on protesters.
(Reporting by Justyna Pawlak, David Brunnstrom and Ilona
© 2016 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.