EU bans imports of Syrian oil over crackdown

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BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union on Friday imposed an embargo on oil imports from Syria as security forces in the country surrounded mosques in rebellious cities to prevent worshippers from pouring into the streets for anti-government rallies.

The EU said in a statement that the ban covers purchase, import and transport of oil and other petroleum products from Syria. The EU also has prohibited financial or insurance services involved in such transactions.

Four more Syrian individuals and three entities were added to the list of those targeted by an EU asset freeze and travel ban.

The 5-month-old uprising in Syria shows no sign of slowing down, despite a brutal government crackdown that the U.N. estimates has killed some 2,200 people since March. Protesters pour into the streets every week, despite the near certainty of meeting a barrage of shells and sniper fire.

But the regime is in no imminent danger of collapse, setting the stage for a deadly stalemate.

Over the past few months, the EU has imposed travel bans and asset freezes against 35 Syrian government officials and military and police commanders, including President Bashar Assad himself.

Syria gets about 28 percent of its revenue from the oil trade and sells fuel to France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. The EU has in the past been been reluctant to ban Syrian oil and gas imports for fear shortages might hurt the Syrian public and small businesses.

The EU oil embargo will bring the 27-nation bloc in line with the latest U.S. moves to isolate Assad’s regime, including a ban on the import of petroleum or related products.

Some EU nations have been lobbying for other sectors to be added to the sanctions regime, including telecommunications and banking.

In Syria, troops fanned out in cities including Daraa in the south and the eastern city of Deir el-Zour, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Syria has banned foreign journalists and restricted local coverage, making it difficult to independently confirm events on the ground.

Friday has emerged as the main day for protests in the Arab world, and rallies were being held under the banner “Death Rather Than Humiliation.”

In a round of talks on the sidelines of a Paris summit on Libya on Thursday, the U.S., Britain and France discussed plans to escalate international action aimed at halting the violence.

“President Assad’s brutality against unarmed citizens has outraged the region, the world and most importantly the Syrian people themselves,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in Paris.

In what appeared to be a high-profile defection from the regime, a Syrian attorney general appeared on video late Wednesday declaring his resignation to protest the crackdown.

Adnan Bakkour, attorney general for the central Hama province, said security forces killed hundreds of people in the restive city of Hama and arrested thousands of “peaceful protesters.”

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