EU Imposes Sanctions on Syria's Assad in Bid to Halt Violence Against Protesters

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The European Union tightened sanctions against Syria by imposing restrictions on President Bashar Assad on Monday, raising pressure on his government to end violence against protesters, EU diplomats said.

EU foreign ministers agreed at a meeting in Brussels to add several Syrian officials, including Assad, to a list people affected by EU travel restrictions and asset freezes.

"Technically, the legal act has been accepted," one EU diplomat said, but he added that EU foreign ministers would still discuss the move at the meeting on Monday.

Anti-government protests in Syria are continued for the 10th week on Sunday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in Britain, said it had the names of 863 civilians who had been killed in shootings by security forces since the pro-democracy uprising erupted.

Thousands of Syrians attending the funerals of pro-democracy protesters called on Sunday for the removal of President Bashar Assad, witnesses said.

Separately, protesters took to the streets in an eastern town after a 17-year-old activist burned himself to death on Friday, campaigners said, an incident that echoed the self immolation of a Tunisian vegetable trader last year that sparked protests across the Arab world.

"The people want the overthrow of the regime," mourners chanted on Sunday as they streamed out of the Big Mosque in the Damascus suburb of Saqba, according to one witnesses.

The slogan echoed the rallying cry of uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt this year that unseated their leaders.

The protests that brought down Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali erupted after the suicide of 26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi on Dec. 17 because police seized his grocery cart.

Assad has largely dismissed the protests as part of a foreign-backed conspiracy to sow sectarian strife in Syria.

Syrian authorities blame most of the upheaval on "armed saboteur groups", backed by Islamists and foreign powers, who they say have killed more than 120 soldiers and police.

Protesters in London hit an image of Syria President Bashar Assad with shoes, a sign of disrespect in the Arab world. Credit: AFP