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EU foreign ministers to toughen up on Syria, Iran

Facing an ever-worsening humanitarian crisis in Syria, EU foreign ministers are due to pass tougher sanctions against Syrian President Bashar Assad. The talks are also expected to produce tougher measures against Iran.

Following efforts in recent months to diffuse what diplomats see as some of the most pressing threats to peace and stability in the Middle East - the war in Syria and Iran's alleged possession of nuclear weapons - foreign ministers from the European Union are scheduled to meet in Luxembourg on Monday to discuss more effective sanctions.

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EU meets to increase pressure on Syria

A diplomatic source speaking to the news agency on condition of anonymity called them "one of the toughest packages of sanctions."

While the meeting is expected to result in travel bans on over 20 Syrians and two companies in an effort to end a civil war, the newest series of sanctions against Iran are intended to further cripple its economy. The United States and its allies want to hinder Tehran from nuclear weapon development.

In the run-up to the meeting, foreign ministers were reportedly planning on focusing measures against Iran on its natural gas and oil exports, as well bans against its banks.

Vice President of the European Commission Catherine Ashton expressed her belief that Iran and the EU could still negotiate with each other.

"I do hope we will able to move forward soon with our discussions with Iran," Ashton told the news agency AP.

kms/sej (AFP, dpa, AP, Reuters)

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