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EU Considers Tighter Penalties on Syria


Jakob Kellenberger, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) looks on during a news conference after his return from Syria, in Geneva, September 6, 2011.

Jakob Kellenberger, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) looks on during a news conference after his return from Syria, in Geneva, September 6, 2011.

The European Union is moving to impose additional sanctions on Syria for the government's violent crackdown on dissent.

The French Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that diplomats are considering measures targeting companies that are linked to the repression of civilians in Syria. The new penalties could follow an EU oil embargo against Damascus that took effect Saturday.

More civilians killed

Meanwhile, activists say Syrian forces killed two civilians, including a teenager, in the central Homs region on Tuesday. They also say five bodies were found in the area, which has been a hub for protests against President Bashar al-Assad.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon renewed calls for Mr. Assad to stop the crackdown and initiate reforms. He spoke Tuesday while visiting New Zealand.

Meanwhile, the Arab League's top diplomat has delayed a planned visit to Syria one day before it was due to begin. News reports quoting diplomatic sources say Nabil Elaraby postponed his trip at Syria's request. The reports said Damascus gave no explanation and did not fix a new date for the talks.

Elaraby has said he wants to express Arab concerns about the deadly violence that has rocked the country and listen to the opinions of Syrian leaders. In late August, Syrian authorities rejected an Arab League statement calling for an end to the bloodshed.

Red Cross gets access

On Monday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Syria had given it access to a detention facility in the country for the first time since opposition activists launched a pro-democracy uprising in March.

ICRC chief Jakob Kellenberger said the government allowed a Red Cross delegation traveling with him to visit the Damascus central prison.

The state-run SANA news agency said Tuesday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used the meeting to stress the importance of getting direct information about events in his country, in the wake of what the news service called massive media distortions.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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