Updated at 11:30,08-12-2016

EU Foreign Ministers OK Syria Sanctions

European Union foreign ministers have imposed new sanctions against the Syrian regime, agreeing to an assets freeze and travel ban on 28 Syrian individuals and two firms.

It brings to 181 the number of people and to 54 the number of companies blacklisted by the EU.

The measures target individuals linked to violence against protesters and companies involved in supplying equipment used for repression by the regime.

The ministers are also expected to consider fresh measures against Iran and Belarus.

Officials say the measures are being imposed over Tehran's refusal to halt work on its nuclear development program, which Western nations fear could be directed toward building a nuclear weapon.

Upon arrival for the meeting, EU foreign policy and security chief Catherine Ashton, who is also the chief negotiator of the Western powers in nuclear talks with Iran, said there is still hope for negotiations.

"We are looking today at the additional measures that we will discuss during the course of the meeting," she said. "But I continue, as you know, to make every effort to explore the potential for Iran to make the decision in an entirely peaceful, civil, nuclear program."

Ashton, however, added that the EU "will continue to keep up the pressure" on Tehran.

RFE/RL's correspondent in Brussels, Rikard Jozwiak, says that sanctions against Iran will include 34 entities and one individual added to the visa ban and asset freeze list.

He says there will also be a ban on financial transactions with the exception of those involving humanitarian aid, food and medicine purchases, and gas imports from Iran.

EU companies will be forbidden to provide shipbuilding technology, oil storage capabilities, and classification services to Iranian tankers, as well as selling metals and graphites.

On Belarus, the ministers are expected to extend for another year punitive measures against 243 people and 32 entities in the wake of Belarus’s widely criticized parliamentary elections on September 2.