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EU imposes embargo on Syrian oil

The European Union has banned oil imports from Syria in a move that will cost the embattled regime millions of pounds a day as it uses deadly force to try to crush a five-month-old uprising.

The move came as at least six people were killed in the latest crackdown, activists said. President Bashar Assad's security forces fired on thousands of anti-government protesters and surrounded mosques in southern and eastern cities to prevent worshippers from streaming into the streets to join the rallies, activists said.

The UN estimates 2,200 people have been killed since March as protesters face a barrage of shells and sniper fire. In the latest demonstrations, protesters marched under the slogan "Death Rather Than Humiliation".

The EU oil ban follows other international sanctions and worldwide condemnation. The ban covers the purchase, import and transport of oil and other petroleum products from Syria. The EU also has banned European banks from opening credit lines for such sales, and prohibited insurance companies from insuring the cargos.

In addition to the oil ban, four more Syrian individuals and three entities were added to a list of those facing an EU asset freeze and travel ban. Over the past few months, the EU has imposed travel bans and asset freezes against 35 Syrian government officials and military and police commanders, including Assad himself.

Syria exports 150,000 barrels of oil per day, generating 7 million to 8 million US dollars daily, according to David Schenker, director of the Programme on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The vast majority of that oil goes to the European Union.

Without that revenue, Syria is likely to use up foreign reserves far more quickly. It had 17 billion dollars in reserves at the start of the uprising. Still, some analysts believe Syria is getting financial assistance from Iran, which would cushion the EU blow.

Syria gets about 28% of its revenue from the oil trade and sells fuel to France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. The EU has in the past been reluctant to ban Syrian oil and gas imports for fear of the impact on the Syrian public and small businesses.

The EU oil embargo will bring the 27-nation bloc in line with the latest US moves to isolate Assad's regime, including a ban on the import of petroleum or related products.

Syrian troops fanned out in cities including Daraa in the south and the eastern city of Deir el-Zour, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Syria has banned foreign journalists and restricted local coverage, making it difficult to independently confirm events on the ground.

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