Australia announces new Syria sanctions

Australia on Monday announced fresh sanctions against Syria restricting or prohibiting trade across entire sectors as Foreign Minister Bob Carr urged Russia to take a lead role in regime change.

The new measures affect trade between Australia and Syria in oil, petroleum, financial services, telecommunications and precious metals and are in addition to an existing arms embargo and sanctions against individuals connected to leaders in Damascus.

"The Assad regime continues to show its unwillingness to negotiate a ceasefire and bring an end to Syria's bloodshed," Carr said in a statement.

"These sanctions reflect Australia's condemnation of the Assad regime, and our continued efforts to help bring Syria to the negotiating table."

The European Union is also expected to slap fresh sanctions on President Bashar al-Assad's government at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday.

More than 15,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria since the outbreak of the revolt against Assad's rule in March 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

In an opinion piece for The Australian newspaper, Carr, who has just returned from meetings across the Middle East, called for Moscow to take a lead role in forcing Assad out.

He said Russia, one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, had an obligation to show leadership, adding that with hostilities continuing, a lead role for Moscow was "the only immediate viable solution".

"Crucially, Syria's most important external supporter, Russia, has, so far, not shown any signs of putting pressure on Assad to walk off the stage and see a successor offer negotiation with regime opponents," he said.

"If Russia reconsiders, however, it will give itself a reputation for leadership beyond the promotion of Russian national interest.

"This must, of course, be under the overarching responsibility of the Security Council. Russian support would be indispensable to the departure of Assad."

Russia has so far refused to join calls for Assad's ouster and has vowed to block any attempts by the UN Security Council to authorise the use of foreign force.

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