EU to ban Assad's wife from shopping trips after e-mail leaks

Soft face of regime compromised

BRUSSELS - The European Union is set to slap a travel ban and assets freeze on President Bashar al-Assad's wife Asma and other members of his family, EU diplomats said on Thursday.
Asma al-Assad is on a list of 12 people, including a handful of the president's relatives, whose assets will be frozen and who will be barred from travel across the 27-nation bloc, the sources said.
As a British-born and British-educated former investment banker, it was widely believed Asma al-Assad's grounding in Western values would help give the regime a more human face and shatter the isolation of the secretive Assad family.
But in the last weeks she became the focus of sharp criticism after Britain's Guardian newspaper released e-mails showing the ruling couple shopping for luxury goods as the country slid into bloody chaos.
She will be one of a dozen names added by EU foreign ministers Friday to a blacklist of around 150 firms and people already targeted in 12 previous rounds of European sanctions, EU sources said.
An EU diplomat said members of the 27-nation bloc were agreed on adding 12 people and two companies to the list but that no joint move was expected on closing EU embassies in Damascus unless the situation deteriorated.
Six of the 19 EU nations with embassies in Syria have left -- Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain -- while the bloc has offered space in its delegation to any member wanting to close its premises but leave officials behind.
The EU last month slapped a freeze on Syria's central bank while also banning trade in gold and precious metals and cargo flights to Europe operated by Syrians.