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Activists: Syria Tightens Stranglehold On Protest Focal Points

Protesters hold a poster reading: "All cities in Syria are terrorist!???" during a demonstration in the port city of Banias.
Witnesses and activists say Syrian forces have stepped up their crackdown on key protest centers, cordoning off neighborhoods and arresting leaders of the anti-regime dissent movement.

Troops backed by armored vehicles were still rounding up protesters on May 10 in the coastal town of Banias, where tanks rolled in three days earlier to crush protests.

Security forces have also rounded up regime opponents in the key Mediterranean port of Latakia, in the Damascus region, and in Idlib, northwest of the capital.

Meanwhile, the UN has expressed concern that it has been denied previously-approved access to the embattled southern city of Daraa.

In related news, EU sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad's regime took effect today, with Assad's younger brother heading a list of 13 officials facing penalties for their involvement in the bloody crackdown.

All 13 men are now prevented from traveling to the EU and any funds they may have in the bloc will now be frozen.

Foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said EU sanctions could be extended "including at the highest level of leadership" unless Damascus heeds calls to end repression.

On May 9, EU member states also agreed to enforce an embargo on the export of weapons to Syria.

Rights groups say between 600 and 700 people have been killed since the start of the protest movement in mid-March.

compiled from agency reports