Assad regime not welcome at Olympics

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LONDON — Dozens of officials in Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime will be blocked from attending the London Olympics, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed yesterday as he pledged to make the event “the greatest show on Earth.”

Cameron said those subject to international travel bans and asset freezes would not be able to attend the sporting spectacle, which takes place from July 27-Aug. 12.

“I don’t think we should punish the athletes for the sins of the regime, so Syria will be taking part in the games and that is right,” Cameron told reporters as he held talks with International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, who was in town for the IOC’s final inspection visit before the games.

“But let’s be absolutely clear, Britain has led efforts within the European Union and elsewhere to institute asset bans, travel freezes and punishing sanctions against this despicable regime. Anyone covered by one of those travel bans will not be welcome in London,” Cameron said.

A total of 41 organizations and 127 people linked to the Syrian regime have had EU sanctions imposed upon them, including Assad’s British-born wife, Asma. Diplomats have conceded they could not prevent her from entering Britain, but insist they do not expect her to try to travel to the U.K. Britain’s Home Office, which is responsible for border control, will need to decide whether to grant a visa to attend the Olympics to Syrian Olympic Committee president Gen. Mowaffak Joumaa, a close Assad aide who is not currently covered by sanctions.

The ministry can deny entry if it feels an individual’s presence in Britain would not be “conducive to the public good.”

Published on Thursday, March 29, 2012 as: Britain welcomes Syrians not subject to travel bans to Olympics.