24 Mar 2012

Europeans ban Syrian president's family

9:56 am on 24 March 2012

European Union officials will pressure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stop a crackdown on popular unrest by stopping his wife and other family members from travelling to the EU or shopping for European fashions, furniture and jewels.

Luxury shopping habits of Mr Assad's London-born wife Asma al-Assad were exposed earlier this month in a cache of hacked emails which spurred further criticism of the family in Syria.

The emails to her husband, obtained by Britain's Guardian newspaper, showed they were buying jewels, fancy furniture and other luxury goods on the internet while the president carried out a bloody crackdown on protesters and other political critics.

Though Asma, a former investment banker, could still enter Britain on her UK passport, the British assets of all members of the family have been frozen.

EU foreign ministers also added other Syrians to a list of those facing asset freezes and bans on travel to Europe, and barred EU companies from doing business with two Syrian oil companies.

A dozen previous rounds of sanctions aimed at isolating President Assad within Syria and cutting off his sources of finance included an arms embargo and a ban on importing Syrian oil into the EU.