The European Union (EU) will implement sanctions on the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, in an effort to force the Damascus government to cease its violent campaign against anti-regime protesters, according to reports.

Foreign ministers of the EU entered into an agreement to expand the list of Syrian officials – including Assad – who would be subject to stringent asset freezes, travel bans and an arms embargo.

The U.S. has already targeted Assad with sanctions.

The repression in Syria continues, said the British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

It is important to see the right to peaceful protest, the release of political prisoners and taking the path of reform not repression in Syria over the coming days.

An EU diplomat explained to Agence France Presse: The aim of the sanctions is to stop the violence and press Assad to agree to a process of reform, but not to force him to step down.”

The German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, said: If someone represses his own people like that, responds to peaceful demonstrations with force, this can't be left unanswered by the European Union.”

After about two months of demonstrations against the Assad regime, hundreds of people – perhaps as many as 900 -- have been killed by state security forces and many hundreds more have been wounded or detained.

The crackdown against protesters has intensified weeks after Assad made some small concessions, including the lifting of emergency rule in the country after 48 years. On the reverse side protesters have become more determined to topple Assad’s regime, defying bans on demonstrations and, in turn, suffering heavy casualties.

The Syrian government has repeatedly claimed that the unrest in the country is the work of “foreign agents” determined to sow sectarian strife.