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A pro-Assad rally in Damascus on Monday. AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi/PA Images

EU blocks export of 'monitoring equipment' to Syria

European Union foreign ministers today agreed a number of new economic sanctions against Syria which include limits on exports and support for Syrian government projects.

AFTER TODAY announcing sanctions against 180 Iranian citizens and businesses, EU foreign ministers have announced that they are also imposing new measures against Syria.

The move is part of the EU’s increasing efforts to push Bashar Assad’s government to halt its violent crackdown on political protest.

A statement issued after today’s meeting said that the foreign ministers had agreed to block any new branches of Syrian banks to open within the EU and from establishing “joint ventures or correspondent banking relations with European financial institutions”.

Member states will also no longer export key equipment and technology to oil and gas operations in Syria, and will not assist in the funding or construction of new Syrian power plants.

EU members will also stop pledging grants and loans to the Syrian government “except for humanitarian purposes”, while the export of equipment and software which could be used to monitor phones or the internet to Assad’s government is banned.

Twelve Syrian individuals and 11 companies have been added to the EU’s existing list for sanctions.

The UN recently reported that around 3,500 people have been killed in the unrest since mid-March, but today the organisation’s human rights chief said that the death toll is believed to have risen to “much more” than 4,000, the AP reports.

Earlier this week, UN’s Human Rights Council accused Syrian security forces of committing hundreds of crimes against humanity in their efforts to quash the protests.

The group’s report also accused government forces of killing at least 256 children between mid-March and early November 2011, and said that some of those children had been tortured to death. It also outlined cases of sexual abuse against boys while they were being detained, and said it had received reports of schools being used as detention centres.

The Arab League has already suspended Syria’s membership of the group over the government’s crackdown, and more recently announced economic sanctions which include cutting off Syria’s central bank and blocking Arab government funding for Syrian projects.

Syria’s state news agency Sana today reports that mass rallies are being held in opposition to the Arab League’s sanctions and in support of Assad’s continuing leadership.

Read: Children tortured, killed during Syrian regime’s crackdown: UN >

Read: Turkey hits Syria with sanctions, freezes assets of Assad’s regime >

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