Thursday, June 23, 2011

Syria condemns extended EU sanctions

Wed Jun 22, 2011 1:17PM
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Wed Jun 22, 2011 1:17PM
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The shadowy opposition accuses security forces of being behind the killings. But the government blames armed gangs for the deadly violence, stressing that the unrest is being orchestrated from abroad.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem
The Syrian foreign minister has criticized the West's approach to the recent unrest in Syria, saying Damascus considers extended EU sanctions as a declaration of war.

Speaking during a televised news conference on Wednesday, Walid al-Muallem said that the recently-imposed EU sanctions against Damascus have not and will not affect Syria's independent will.

"We will forget that Europe is on the map and we will look east, south and toward every hand that is extended to us. The world is not just made up of Europe,'' he said.

The EU imposed sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and members of the leadership on 23 May after accusing Damascus of cracking down on protesters.

The 27-nation bloc has now extended its existing sanctions to four military-linked firms and to more Syrian officials. The US has also imposed sanctions on Syria.

The Syrian foreign minister also rejected foreign meddling in his country's internal affairs.

"We can reach consensus despite opposing points of view," Muallem said, adding that, "No one outside (Syria) can impose on us their point of view."

He said the government will present "an unprecedented example of democracy'' in the country within three months. His remarks follow Assad's promises of reforms.

"We will offer an example of democracy. There will be social justice, equality before the law and accountability," Muallem said.

The top Syrian diplomat also said that the Syrian government wants to maintain good relations with longtime ally Turkey, with which Syria shares a long border.

"We don't want to wipe away years of efforts to establish privileged ties," he said.

"I wish (Turkey) would reconsider its position."

He also strongly denied reports that Iran and Hezbollah are helping the Syrian government put down the recent unrest.

"There is Iranian and Hezbollah political support for Syria to transcend this crisis and support for the reforms announced by President Assad. But there is absolutely no military support on the ground,'' Muallem added.

Since the beginning of unrest in Syria in mid-March, hundreds of people, including security forces, have been killed.

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