The European Union is moving to widen its sanctions against Syria because of the Arab state's brutal crackdown on protesters, officials said Thursday, adding that Syria's largest commercial bank is a target.
The EU moves would come after the failure by the U.S. and European allies to pass a U.N. Security Council resolution threatening sanctions against Syria. Russia and China vetoed Tuesday's measure, which would have been the first legally binding council resolution against Syria since President Bashar Assad's forces began attacking pro-democracy protesters in mid-March.
The U.N. estimates the crackdown has led to more than 2,900 deaths. The killings have already prompted the 27-nation EU to expanded sanctions against Syria several times.
The latest sanctions will likely not be ready yet for EU foreign ministers to endorse during Monday's monthly council meeting. But a high-ranking EU official said they should be pushed through "in the coming days."
Another official familiar with the matter says the state-owned Commercial Bank of Syria is being targeted. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
In August, the U.S. took action against the bank by freezing any assets the firm has in U.S. jurisdictions and banning Americans from doing business with it. The EU sanctions would likely be similar.
Over the past month, the EU has banned investment in Syria's oil sector and put a ban on Syrian crude oil imports on top of an arms embargo. Additional measures include travel and visa bans on 56 officials linked to Assad's regime.
On Monday, the EU foreign ministers are set to call again on Assad to step down and allow for a political transition.
In Stockholm, Syrian opposition leaders are to meet this weekend to discuss the path ahead, according to Jens Orback of the Olof Palme International Center. Orback said some 80 participants are expected, including leaders of the recently formed Syrian National Council.
Associated Press Writer Louise Nordstrom in Stockholm contributed to this report.