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France’s Fabius confirms EU planning new Syria sanctions

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The European Union will slap new sanctions against Syria next week, including a tighter arms embargo, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Friday, confirming earlier reports.

“An entire series of sanctions will be implemented in the coming days to tighten the net around (Syrian President) Bashar al-Assad,” Fabius said at a joint news conference in Madrid with his Spanish counterpart Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo.

Asked whether decisions would be taken Monday and whether they would include a stiffer arms embargo and a longer list of targeted individuals, he replied: “Yes, and I hope there will be others.”

Fabius said the new sanctions would be discussed at a meeting Monday of the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels.

“We must weaken a regime that should step aside, the sooner the better,” Fabius said, calling the situation in Syria “intolerable” and adding: “It has become a civil war.”

Diplomats said Thursday that the European Union was planning to freeze the assets of 26 Syrians close to Assad while readying plans to board vessels and planes suspected of transporting arms for his regime.

The diplomats told AFP that foreign ministers from the 27-nation bloc were also likely to agree at the Monday talks to add at least 26 individuals and two or three firms to an existing EU blacklist of 129 people and 49 entities.

The sanctions would be the European Union’s 17th round of targeted measures against the Assad regime since protests erupted in March 2011.

An export ban was imposed in May last year on arms and material which might be used for internal repression. But there is growing concern to ensure that no weapons or goods get through.

Should a member of the EU suspect a vessel in its territorial waters to be carrying suspect cargo for Syria, it will be obliged to send inspectors. The same principle would be applied to air cargo.

As fighting intensifies in Syria, also high on the agenda of the foreign ministers talks will be how to prepare for a potential humanitarian crisis on Europe’s doorstep.

More than 100,000 Syrians displaced by the conflict have been registered so far in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey, triple the number since April.

More than 17,000 people have been killed since the uprising against Assad began 16 months ago, activists say.