‘Horrified’ at Syria atrocities, EU leaders vow to hold Assad’s regime accountable

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron said the regime Bashar al-Assad will eventually be held accountable for crimes against his people. (Reuters)

European Union leaders were “horrified” by the atrocities taking place in Syria on Friday and called for those responsible to be held to accountable.

EU president Herman Van Rompuy said at the close of a two-day summit that the 27 EU leaders had adopted a text stating that “the European Council remains determined to ensure that those responsible for atrocities in Syria are held accountable for their actions.”

The text also called on EU foreign ministers to prepare further targeted restrictive measures against the regime.
Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron had called for the “criminal” Syrian regime to be held to account as aid agencies scrambled to get relief convoys into the Syrian city of Homs on Friday.

“One day, no matter how long it takes, there will be a day of reckoning for this dreadful regime,” Cameron said as he joined European Union leaders on the second day of a two-day summit.
EU leaders will pledge to tighten the noose on President Bashar al-Assad’s regime with fresh sanctions during talks later Friday on what Cameron dubbed the “absolutely appalling” situation in Syria.

“It is vitally important that there is humanitarian access into Homs and elsewhere so that people can get the help they need,” Cameron said, referring to a flashpoint city that has suffered heavy shelling.

“But above all, what I think matters is building the evidence and a picture so we hold this criminal regime to account and to make sure that it is held to account for the crimes it is committing against its people.”
EU ministers last week slapped fresh sanctions on Syria, including a freeze on its central bank assets, the 12th round of EU sanctions against Assad’s regime.

Measures also included an assets freeze and travel ban on seven Syrian ministers, a ban on trade in gold and precious metals and a ban on cargo flights to the EU operated by Syrians.

The EU has already blacklisted almost 150 Syrian entities and people.
As the EU moved to slap more sanctions on the regime in Damascus, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent were preparing to send in a relief convoy to the battered Homs neighborhood, an ICRC spokesman said.

The U.N. Security Council called on Syria to allow “immediate” humanitarian access to protest cities in a statement backed by Russia and China, who had vetoed two resolutions on the conflict last October and again in February.

“The ICRC and the SARC will go on Friday to Baba Amr to deliver humanitarian aid and evacuate the wounded,” Damascus spokesman Saleh Dabbakeh told AFP.

The rebels said they had pulled out “tactically” from Baba Amr on Thursday, the second day of an all-out ground assault by the feared Fourth Armored Division led by President Assad's younger brother Maher.

The storming of the rebel bastion began early Wednesday, following 27 straight days of relentless shelling which has made the neighborhood an icon of the more than 11-month uprising against Assad's regime.

Activists called for nationwide protests on Friday to demand the arming of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) to give it the firepower to defend itself against regime forces.

“Assad, don't delude yourself, there are a thousand and one Baba Amrs,” the activists said on their “Syrian Revolution 2011” Facebook page.

“Soon, we'll be back even stronger,” it added, next to a picture of rebel fighters.

The SNC announced on Thursday that it was forming a military bureau to coordinate the flow of arms to the rebels after calls from Gulf Arab states for weapons deliveries ran into opposition from Washington which said it feared al-Qaeda might exploit the situation.

The FSA, which boasts up to 40,000 fighters, most of them army defectors, says it is not only having to contend with the superior firepower of the regime's forces but also with troops sent by its close ally Iran.

Rebel fighters told an AFP correspondent near Homs that they were regularly intercepting communications in Farsi on wavelengths used by the Syrian army that indicated Iranian units were deployed in the area,.

The correspondent was able to confirm that the language being used was Farsi.

Syrian authorities, meanwhile, said they located the bodies of U.S. journalist Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik in Baba Amr after the rebels retreated, the foreign ministry said. The journalists were killed in a rocket attack last month.

Two French journalists, trapped for days in the bombardment of Baba Amr, were being kept under observation by doctors in neighboring Lebanon on Friday after being brought out to safety, a diplomatic source told AFP.

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