British Foreign Secretary William Hague says EU officials are preparing to discuss sanctions on Syria's oil sector as a way of pressuring Damascus to stop a deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.
Speaking Thursday in Paris, Hague said there is a "real prospect" that EU officials meeting in Poland later this week will agree to ban the sale of Syrian oil to the 27-nation bloc. The European Union and the United States have tightened sanctions against Syria in recent weeks and called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to resign for ignoring international appeals to end the crackdown.
Assad's government also appears to have suffered a setback with the first apparent defection of a prominent provincial official to the opposition. The attorney general for the central province of Hama said Thursday in a YouTube video that he has resigned in protest at recent mass killings and arrests of local opposition activists by Syrian security forces.
In the video, Adnan Bakkour accuses pro-Assad forces of killing 72 prisoners in the province on July 31 before imposing a siege on Hama city in August and killing another 420 people for participating in what he called "peaceful" protests. He says government forces buried the dead in mass graves and instructed him to blame the killings on armed gangs.
Syria's state-run SANA news agency says Bakkour was kidnapped earlier this week by "armed terrorist groups" and forced to make his resignation statement under duress. In another video posted to the Internet Thursday, Bakkour denies being kidnapped.
Syrian rights activists and residents say Syrian security forces backed by tanks renewed operations in Hama on Wednesday, hunting for leaders behind the five-month uprising against President Assad and making arrests. Hama has seen some of the country's biggest protests demanding an end to Mr. Assad's 11-year autocratic rule.
Also Wednesday, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said violence linked to the uprising killed 360 civilians and 113 security personnel during the just-ended Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.