EU foreign ministers slapped fresh sanctions on Syria, including a freeze on its central bank assets Monday while slamming the regime's controversial weekend vote on a new constitution.
"Yesterday's referendum vote has fooled nobody," said British Foreign Secretary William Hague. "To open polling stations but continue to open fire on the civilians of the country has no credibility in the eyes of the world."
Moves to further restrict the regime's access to finance in particular were key, Hague added as he stepped into talks with his 26 European Union counterparts.
Assets freeze, travel bans
Measures decided shortly after the ministers began a day-long meeting also included an assets freeze and travel ban on seven Syrians close to President Bashar Al Assad, a ban on cargo flights into the 27-nation bloc and restrictions on trade in gold and precious metals.
Shortly after ministers went into talks, the EU announced "points adopted including restrictive measures against the Syrian regime". The EU has already blacklisted almost 150 Syrian entities and people.
Cargo flights to the EU operated by Syrians will not be allowed to land, but should they be carrying passengers they will be given access to EU nations.
"We will maintain the pressure" through more sanctions, said French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, who also slammed the referendum as "a sinister masquerade". "It's disgraceful because at the same time bombs are falling on Homs and other cities," he said.
'Women raped in hospitals'
Luxembourg counterpart Jean Asselborn joined the criticism, calling the vote a "farce", with Syrian television highlighting "perfect democracy while on the other side children are taken into hospitals and women raped in hospitals".
"The killing has to stop," said Austria's Michael Spindelegger. "These sanctions do show effect," he added. "That puts the Assad regime under pressure." Some nations had also urged a ban on phosphate exports from Syria as the EU accounts for 40 percent of those.
But Greece, which is one of the main buyers, opposed the ban, sources said. Nations doing extensive business with Syria also argued against full sanctions against the central bank, fearing that such measures would halt all trade and impact on the Syrian people.
Likewise a proposal to ban commercial flights between Europe and Syria was dropped as it would complicate efforts to evacuate EU citizens if such action was needed.
The EU has already imposed oil and arms embargoes against Syria in response to a crackdown that has left more than 7,600 people dead, according to rights groups, since anti-regime protests erupted in March.