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EU slaps new sanctions on Syria

(CNN) — European Union foreign ministers on Monday imposed new sanctions on the Syrian regime, urging it to adopt a U.N.-backed peace plan that so far has failed to stop the mounting carnage.
The EU ministers froze the assets of two firms and imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on three people believed to provide funding for the regime, the European Council announced.
It is the 15th time the European Union has imposed restrictions on Syria since a popular uprising began there early last year.
“The continuing violence is appalling,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Monday, adding the sanctions are aimed at the regime and not the civilian population.
“As long as the repression continues, we will continue to put pressure on those responsible for it,” she said in Brussels.
Inside Syria on Monday, regime forces suffered heavy casualties during clashes in Rastan, a city that has been pummeled by government forces, opposition activists said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it received “preliminary information that three armored personnel carriers were destroyed and that at least 23 soldiers were killed.”
Elsewhere in Syria, at least four people were killed Monday, said the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, an opposition network. The dead included a child struck by random gunfire from the regime’s army in Deir Ezzor, the LCC said.
The group also posted reports of the military aiming mortars and heavy artillery at the Homs village of Al-Burnhanieh.
The Syrian government on Monday reported four deaths, including a colonel and lieutenant colonel killed by “armed terrorist groups” in Damascus and Daraa, according to the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency.
Violence from the Syrian conflict isn’t confined to the country’s borders. In neighboring Lebanon, at least one person was killed and 45 others wounded in ongoing violence, Lebanon’s National News Agency reported Monday.
The fighting in Lebanon pits residents of Bab al-Tebbaneh, a Sunni stronghold hostile to the Syrian regime, against Alawite residents of Jabal Mohsen, who support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Clashes that began Sunday in Lebanon ignited over the arrest of Islamist activist Chadi Mawlawi, whom the Lebanese government accuses of being an operative in Al-Qaeda-inspired group. But his relatives deny the accusation.
Ali Hajar, one of Mawlawi’s cousins, said Mawlawi supports the Syrian rebels and is trying to help Syrian refugees by providing them with shelter and food. Hajar said his cousin was not affiliated with any terrorist group.
CNN cannot independently verify reports of deaths and violence because the Syrian government has severely restricted access to international media.
A team of U.N. monitors is in Syria to see how well both sides are implementing a six-point peace plan brokered by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Annan said last week that the observers are the last hope for success of the plan, which involves a cease-fire by all parties and the withdrawal of Syrian forces from populated areas.
Since the cease-fire went into effect April 12, the fighting and killing has continued, with the LCC reporting more than 1,000 deaths in the intervening weeks.
The United Nations estimates at least 9,000 people have died in the 14-month crisis, while opposition groups put the death toll at more than 11,000.
Despite the ongoing chaos, Syrian state-run media announced that results from recent parliamentary elections will be announced Tuesday. More than 7,000 candidates vied for 250 parliamentary seats.
But members of the opposition had urged Syrians to boycott the elections, saying a vote for any of the candidates amounted to a vote for al-Assad, whose family has ruled the country for 42 years.

Published Date: Monday, May 14th, 2012 | 02:15 AM

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