The European Union is preparing new, expanded sanctions against Syria that would target companies, in response to the Syrian government's violent crackdown against its regime, a French official said Friday.
The effort follows last month's move by the 27-nation bloc to impose an asset freeze and a visa ban on Syrian President Bashar Assad and nine other members of his regime, Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.
"Now, a process is under way among the 27 so that extra, broader sanctions are adopted, and which would target economic entities," he said, adding that France favors new sanctions.
Valero said he believed that the sanctions could target companies and banks, but did not elaborate or offer a timetable for an EU decision.
In Brussels, a senior EU official confirmed that such discussions are under way ahead of an EU foreign ministers meeting early next week _ notably on how many businesses to target. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are private.
Protests first erupted in Syria in mid-March as part of the "Arab Spring" push toward democracy. Assad responded by unleashing the military in region after region to crush the street demonstrations.
Human rights activists say more than 1,400 Syrians have been killed and 10,000 detained. Some 9,600 others from the northwest have sought refuge in camps in neighboring Turkey.
In Berlin, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called his Brazilian counterpart Antonio Patriota to lobby for a U.N. Security Council resolution given the "increasingly dramatic situation in Syria," a senior ministry official said Friday.
The "brutal violence of the Syrian leadership against its own people requires a clear answer by the Security Council," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with department policy.
Germany and Brazil hold seats as non-permanent Security Council members.
The U.N. body has yet to adopt a draft resolution condemning Syria for its deadly crackdown on protesters and demanding an immediate end to the violence _ initiated by France, Britain and Germany _ as Russia and China oppose the motion. Those five countries are permanent Security Council members.
Earlier Friday, German chancellor Angela Merkel also stressed that a resolution was needed "that addresses the actions of President Assad against his people. We will push for this, collectively and very firmly."
Don Melvin in Brussels and Juergen Baetz in Berlin contributed to this report.