U.K. supports call for EU sanctions against Congo officials

DAKAR (Reuters) - The United Kingdom said on Thursday it backs targeted European Union sanctions against officials in Democratic Republic of Congo to end government repression and encourage a peaceful transition of power. Dozens of people have died in clashes between security forces and protesters angered by what opposition groups say is President Joseph Kabila's plan to postpone a November vote and stay in office beyond his two-term limit. Kabila's government has said the election must be postponed because of logistical problems. The United States has already imposed sanctions on a general as well as former and current senior police officials, but Europe has been divided. France has said it is time to consider imposing EU sanctions. "The UK believes sanctions would play a useful role in influencing the DRC Government and security forces to desist from human rights abuses and suppression of fundamental freedoms," a spokesperson for the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in an email. "We cannot stand by and watch violence, such as that on 19 September, continue and not take action." Officials in Congo, a former Belgian colony, are thought to hold most of their assets in Europe. Human Rights Watch on Thursday urged the EU to impose sanctions, saying that it could help prevent a broader crisis. The vast, mineral-rich central African state has never experienced a peaceful transition of power. The United Nations said this week that the current crisis poses a great risk to the country's stability and is likely to spark large-scale violence. (Reporting by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Hugh Lawson)