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Muallem Says 'Sanctions behind Syrians' Suffering'

Western sanctions on Syria are causing the population to suffer, Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told a top U.N. official in Damascus on Saturday, state media said.

The United Nations "must intervene to ensure (U.S. and EU sanctions) are lifted," Muallem said, according to state news agency SANA.

U.S. and EU sanctions "are responsible for the suffering of Syrian citizens," Muallem added.

In her meeting with Muallem, Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos said the U.N. "will continue to provide humanitarian assistance in coordination with the Syrian government," SANA said.

Amos was in Damascus for a brief visit on Saturday, the agency said.

During the meeting, Muallem also called on the United Nations to "contribute its efforts to rebuild infrastructure and hospitals that were destroyed by armed terrorist groups," a reference to anti-regime rebels.

Almost two years into the outbreak of an uprising that morphed into a bloody conflict, hundreds of thousands of Syrians are suffering from a lack of food, shelter and medical assistance. Hundreds of thousands more have fled.

Because of the raging violence, the United Nations decided in early December to pull out "non-essential" staff from the strife-torn country, a spokesman said.

The organization’s humanitarian agencies, which employ local as well as international staff, have maintained representatives in each of Syria's main provinces, including Damascus.

The EU has imposed 19 rounds of sanctions on Syrian individuals and companies with ties to the regime of President Bashar Assad, as well as an oil and arms embargo.

Meanwhile, the U.N. Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui visited schools in Damascus that have been turned into makeshift shelters for families who have fled their homes, SANA said.

Zerrougui, who arrived in Damascus on Friday, appealed for "children to be kept away from the violence" that has engulfed Syria, adding that "children have been affected the worst by this crisis."

Source: Agence France Presse


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