EU to step up sanctions on Myanmar, ban timber, gems

BRUSSELS, Oct 12, 2007 (AFP) – The European Union is set to beef up its sanctions against Myanmar next week by introducing an embargo on timber, gems and metals, according to a draft text agreed Friday. EU foreign ministers could approve the import bans — which would notably affect Myanmar’s teak and jade trade — when they meet in Luxembourg on Monday.

“In view of the seriousness of the current situation and in solidarity with the people of Burma/Myanmar, the EU deems it necessary to increase direct pressure on the regime through stronger measures,” according to the draft agreement, seen by AFP.

To that end the EU ban will cover the import of Myanmar timber, metals, minerals and precious and semi-precious stones, it said, adding that the measures are designed to “do no harm to the general population.”

The Eruopean Union would at the same time confirm the continuation of “substantial humanitarian aid programmes aimed at the most vulnerable populations.”

The EU already has broad sanctions in place against Myanmar’s leadership and their families — with 375 people on a visa-ban, asset-freeze list — and officials have stressed the importance of putting pressure on neighbouring coun