EU drafting new Syria sanctions, Hague says

ISTANBUL Thu May 31, 2012 2:13pm EDT

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The European Union is drafting new sanctions against Syria and wants other nations to do the same to increase pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to comply with an international peace plan, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Thursday.

Hague echoed fears voiced by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier in the day that the 14-month uprising in Syria was becoming more sectarian and threatening to spill over into neighboring countries.

Syria is moving towards "all-out civil war or a state of collapse", Hague told Reuters in Istanbul.

He said Damascus had failed to implement a six-point plan drawn up by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, joint peace envoy for the United Nations and the Arab League.

The April 12 ceasefire that the plan called for has so far failed to take hold on either side, and doubts whether Assad will comply with the plan have increased since a massacre of 108 people, many of them children, in the region of Houla last Friday.

"Time is running short for that (plan) because terrible crimes are being committed," Hague said. "There is a great danger of a collapse into a sectarian conflict more bitter and more widespread than we see today."

He said it was too early to say whether Western militaries might intervene, but that this and other options were under discussion in the event that Annan's plan did fail.

Britain and the EU have not supplied arms to Syrian rebels to date, but that too is for consultation with allies in the coming weeks, he said.

SANCTIONS

"We are working on additional sanctions now with our European Union partners," Hague said.

Failure to agree on Syria with Russia and China, who have vetoed two UN Security Council resolutions and blunted Western efforts to push Assad from power, has prompted Britain and its allies to encourage nations outside of Europe to boycott Syria.

"That is a perfectly legitimate thing to do, no matter where things stand at the Security Council," he said.

Western and Arab governments have been frustrated by Russia and China's refusal to allow the Security Council to take harsher measures against Assad's government.

Susan Rice, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, raised the possibility on Wednesday that the United States and like-minded governments could bypass the Security Council to impose fresh measures if the violence escalates in Syria.

(Editing by Diana Abdallah)

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