|EU diplomats are hoping to increase pressure on the Assad regime [Reuters]
The European Union has imposed sanctions on Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president, raising pressure on his government to end violence against protesters, EU diplomats said.
EU foreign ministers agreed on Monday to add several Syrian officials, including Assad, to a list people affected by EU travel restrictions and asset freezes.
Syrian security forces have used tanks, gunfire and mass arrests to crack down on flashpoints in a bid to crush a two-month-old revolt against four decades of rule by the Assad family.
"The repression in Syria continues," British foreign secretary William Hague said as he went into talks with his counterparts.
"It is important to see the right to peaceful protest, the release of political prisoners and taking the path of reform not repression in Syria over the coming days."
Leading officials sanctioned
The European sanctions against Syria included asset freezes, travel bans and an arms embargo.
"They (the EU) have actually come into line with the US now and included president Bashar al-Assad in their list of officials targeted by sanctions," Al Jazeera's Nadim Baba reported from Brussels.
Florence Looi reports in an Al Jazeera Exclusive on Syrians being tortured by security forces.
"This means he will now also face an asset freeze and a travel ban."
"It shows how seriously the European Union takes [Assad's] failure to accept the olive branch that they offered him," our correspondent added.
On the list of 13 targeted officials was the president's brother, Maher al-Assad, who commands Syria's Republican Guard and is the second most powerful man in Syria.
Ali Mamlouk, head of the General Intelligence Service, and Adulfattah Qudsiyeh, who runs military intelligence were also on the list.
"The aim of the sanctions is to stop the violence and press Assad to agree to a process of reform, but not to force him to step down," an EU diplomat said earlier of the new measures to be announced at the two-day talks.
Germany's foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, said it was necessary to move against Syria's top leaders.
"If someone represses his own people like that, responds to peaceful demonstrations with force, this can't be left unanswered by the European Union," he said.
On Sunday, protesters defied a security crackdown, turning out in thousands in the city of Homs to attend the funerals of pro-democracy demonstrators and calling for Assad's removal.
Anti-government demonstrators also rallied in an eastern town after a 17-year-old activist, Mohammad Akram al-Tumah, immolated himself on Friday, echoing the self immolation of a Tunisian vegetable trader last year that sparked protests across the Arab world.
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 10 weeks ago.
Assad has largely dismissed the protests as part of a foreign-backed conspiracy to sow sectarian strife in Syria.
In April, the United States imposed sanctions on Syria's intelligence agency and two relatives of the president.
The sanctions included asset freezes and bans on US business dealings, building on broader US measures against Syria that were in place since 2004.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies