Canada Sanctions Against Syria: Baird Turns Up Pressure On Assad Regime

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BAIRD SYRIA ASSAD
Baird has announced more additions to Canada's Syria blacklist. (CP) | AP

TORONTO - Foreign Minister John Baird is turning up the pressure on Syria, adding another 47 people and three entities to a blacklist of parties prohibited from dealings with Canada.

Baird says the new additions will help to further isolate and increase pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The minister is also renewing pleas for the UN Security Council to adopt binding sanctions against Syria.

He says Canada will lobby Russia on the subject ahead of the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation meeting in Vladivostok next week.

Baird says Assad shows no signs of letting up in his fight against rebel groups.

He says the Syrian situation echoes through the entire region.

"The Assad regime's bloody assault on the people of Syria continues unabated," he said at a Toronto news conference on Friday.

"To date, more than 20,000 have been killed and more than 180,000 have fled to neighbouring countries. The entire region is becoming increasingly unstable.

He said Canada objects to Russia's support for Assad: "Not just the veto at the Security Council, but moral support and other support that has allowed this regime to soldier on."

Baird ruled out any military involvement for the moment, saying the Syrian opposition is "quite fragmented,"

"Canada is not contemplating military action nor arming the Syrian opposition," said Baird. "What worked tremendously well in Libya is not transferable to what the situation in Syria is."

Prof. Houchang Hassan-Yari, a Middle East expert from Queen's University and Royal Military College, says for the Assad regime, the priority is not to save any specific companies or individuals, but to survive at whatever costs.

"The sanctions do not really affect the Assad government," Hassan-Yari said.

He said other measures are required.

"I think it would be much more effective for the Canadian government to help the opposition inside Syria and Turkey get their act together, unify their efforts and create a government-in-exile. That would give the people of Syria a real alternative."

Hassan-Yari agreed that the Syrian opposition is fragmented, but it's the only alternative currently available for a post-Assad Syria.

Baird said he welcomed the efforts by Egypt's new president, Mohammed Morsi, to pressure Iran to change horses and back the opposition in Syria.

"We certainly welcome him speaking truth to power in Tehran," said Baird. "Their support for the Assad regime is disgraceful, despicable."

Morsi is the first Egyptian leader to visit Iran since the 1979 revolution.

On Thursday, at a meeting of non-aligned countries, he suggested Tehran could risk a deepening confrontation with regional powers over the fate of the regime in Damascus.

His comments prompted Syria's delegation to walk out of the meeting.

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