The United States will impose sanctions on Syrian President Bashar Assad for human rights abuses on Wednesday, sources briefed on the matter said, in a dramatic escalation of US pressure on Damascus to cease its brutal crackdown on protesters.
Targeting Assad personally with sanctions, which the United States and the European Union have so far avoided, would be a significant new break with Damascus and raise questions about whether the West ultimately seeks his removal from power.
European governments agreed on Tuesday to tighten sanctions against the Syrian leadership, but said they would decide next week about whether to include Assad on the list.
US President Barack Obama last month signed an executive order imposing a first round of US sanctions against Syria's intelligence agency and two relatives of Assad's for alleged human rights abuses.
The EU, for its part, put 13 Syrian officials on its sanctions list in what it described as a move to gradually increase pressure.
The action is mostly symbolic, as Assad and other top Syrian officials have holdings mostly in Europe, not the US.
Yitzhak Benhorin in Washington contributed to this report
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