Syrian official blames suffering on US, European sanctions

The foreign minister of Syria blamed sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe for the suffering of people in his country, and he urged a U.N. official to condemn them.

"The sanctions imposed by the United States and countries of the European Union on Syria are responsible for the suffering of the Syrian people," the state-run news agency SANA quoted Walid al-Moallem as saying, according to the Associated Press.

The comments come as Syria seeks to push back against mounting international condemnation of the Bashar Assad regime over a crackdown that has resulted in the deaths of more than 40,000 people.

Al-Moallem reportedly made the comments to U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, who asked about the needs of the Syrian people during a brief visit to the country.

The Obama administration has long called for Assad to step aside and this week it formally recognized the Syrian National Council, the newly formed opposition group, as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people.

The sanctions by the U.S. and countries in Europe include a travel ban, an oil and arms embargo and a freeze of the assets of Assad and other leaders.