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Syria Sanctions: European Union Adopts New Visa Bans, Asset Freezes

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Syrian army soldiers and rebels sit on the top of an armored personnel carrier shortly after the Syrian soldiers defected and joined the rebels, in Khaldiyeh district, in Homs province, central Syria, Saturday May 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Fadi Zaidan) | AP

BRUSSELS — The European Union imposed visa bans and asset freezes Monday on three new people associated with Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime – bringing to 128 the number of Assad supporters targeted by the bloc.

Michael Mann, spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said two Syrian entities were also added to the boycott list, which now includes 43 Syrian companies, banks and other organizations.

The new measures, the 15th round of EU sanctions against Assad's regime and its supporters, were adopted at a meeting of EU foreign ministers. The bloc will name the individuals and entities involved on Tuesday, Mann said.

The revolt in Syria began 14 months ago, and there are fears the unrest could lead to a regional conflagration that could draw in neighboring countries. The U.N. estimates the conflict has killed more than 9,000 people since March 2011.

Violence is undermining a U.N.-backed peace plan put forward by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, throwing into doubt the rest of the plan, which calls for talks between Assad's regime and those seeking to end his rule.

Ashton told reporters that the EU will continue to provide material support including vehicles and other equipment for the U.N. observers now in Syria under the plan. More than 100 observers have been deployed so far to oversee the truce between the government and armed rebels.

"We will continue to support (Annan) for as long as he wishes to continue with his mission," Ashton said. "For the moment, he believes this is the best way forward."

Swedish Foreign Minister Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt also said that despite the challenges, the international community must continue to back the cease-fire.

"With considerable difficulties (the Annan plan) is moving forward, but the alternative is rapid descent into civil war, which would be disastrous for Syria and the region," he said.

Some EU governments believed that imposing more sanctions at such a delicate time was detrimental for the peace plan, said an official who asked not to be named in line with standing rules.

But British Foreign Secretary William Hague said as long as the violence and repression continues, the EU will increase the pressure on the regime and its supporters.

The Assad "regime must implement rapidly and fully its commitments," Hague said. "This plan remains the best hope of ending the violence, but it is not open-ended and we will not hesitate to return to the U.N. Security Council if it is not implemented."


AP Correspondent David Stringer in London contributed to this report.

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syria car bomb Syrian policemen inspect the site of a car bomb explosion on Mazzeh highway in the capital Damascus on July 13, 2012. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/GettyImages)

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U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice tweets:

@ AmbassadorRice : #Syria regime turned artillery, tanks and helicopters on its own men & women. It unleashed knife-wielding shabiha gangs on its own children.

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Russia says international envoy Kofi Annan will visit Moscow on Monday to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria. Russia also called for an inquiry into an alleged massacre that took place in the village of Tramseh on Thursday. "We have no doubt that this wrongdoing serves the interests of those powers that are not seeking peace but persistently seek to sow the seeds of interconfessional and civilian conflict on Syrian soil," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement, according to Reuters. Moscow did not apportion blame for the killings.


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The Associated Press obtained a video that purports to show the aftermath of an alleged massacre in the village of Tramseh, near Hama.

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How do Syria's fighters get their arms? An overview put together by Reuters explains that there are three gateways to the country -- Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq.

Syrian rebels are smuggling small arms into Syria through a network of land and sea routes involving cargo ships and trucks moving through Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq, maritime intelligence and Free Syrian Army (FSA) officers say.

Western and regional powers deny any suggestion they are involved in gun running. Their interest in the sensitive border region lies rather in screening to ensure powerful weapons such as surface to air missiles do not find their way to Islamist or other militants.

Read the full report here.

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syria This citizen journalism image made from video provided by Shaam News Network SNN, purports to show a victim wounded by violence that, according to anti-regime activists, was carried out by government forces in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers (nine miles) northwest of the central city of Hama, Thursday, July 12, 2012. The accounts, some of which claim more than 200 people were killed in the violence Thursday, could not be independently confirmed, but would mark the latest in a string of brutal offensives by Syrian forces attempting to crush the rebellion. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)

syria This citizen journalism image made from video provided by Shaam News Network SNN, purports to show a man mourning a victim killed by violence that, according to anti-regime activists, was carried out by government forces in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers (nine miles) northwest of the central city of Hama, Thursday, July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)

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According to the Hama Revolutionary Council, a Syrian opposition group, more than 220 people have been killed in a new alleged massacre in Taramseh. Earlier reports said more than 100 people were killed. "More than 220 people fell today in Taramseh," the Council said in a statement. "They died from bombardment by tanks and helicopters, artillery shelling and summary executions."

Fadi Sameh, an opposition activist from Taramseh, told Reuters he had left the town before the reported massacre but was in touch with residents. "It appears that Alawite militiamen from surrounding villages descended on Taramseh after its rebel defenders pulled out, and started killing the people. Whole houses have been destroyed and burned from the shelling," Sameh claimed.


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Syrian activist Rami Jarrah tweets that Syrian State TV has confirmed deaths in Tremseh. "Terrorists" is often the term used by the Syrian regime for opposition forces.

@ AlexanderPageSY : Syrian State TV: clashes between security apparatus & terrorists in #Tremseh of #Hama leaves large numbers of terrorists killed #Syria

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@ Reuters : At least 100 killed in Syrian village: opposition activists

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