* EU prepares ban on investment in Syrian oil industry
* International sanctions on Assad's government building up
By Justyna Pawlak
BRUSSELS, Sept 9 The European Union has moved
closer to banning investment in Syria's oil industry as it
pushes to raise economic pressure on President Bashar al-Assad
and his government, EU diplomats said on Friday.
Envoys from the EU's 27 capitals have given preliminary
agreement for a ban, which would constitute an important step
towards hitting Assad's finances and complement the EU's embargo
on crude imports from Syria, which took effect last week.
Pending final approval, the investment ban could be put in
place in the coming days or weeks.
Europe's new round of sanctions against Syria may also
include a ban on Europeans doing business with several firms,
such as the country's largest mobile phone company, Syriatel,
which provide funds to Assad, the diplomats said.
But talks on the issue were not finished yet.
"The investment ban has been agreed and there is another
package of ideas being discussed," one EU diplomat said,
speaking on condition of anonymity.
"But there is no decision yet on those and it is unclear
whether there will be a push to finalise all measures together
or in separate steps," the diplomat added.
Western powers are hoping economic sanctions will force
Assad to end a six-month violent crackdown against
anti-government protesters and relinquish power.
On Friday, Syrian forces arrested dozens of people in
house-to-house raids in the city of Homs following military
operations that killed at least 27 civilians on Wednesday. A
grassroots activists group says more than 3,000 civilians have
been killed in the Syrian uprising.
Europe has taken a slower approach to sanctions than the
United States, largely because of concern in some EU capitals
about risks to commercial interests of European companies.
The United States has an embargo on crude imports and a ban
on investment in Syria, as well as a freeze on all Syrian assets
in the United States.
The EU has been the biggest buyer of Syrian crude and
several European companies, such as Anglo-Dutch Royal Dutch
Shell (RDSa.L) and France's Total have significant
European governments have also been concerned that
opposition from Russia and China to U.N. sanctions would blunt
the impact of international pressure if it allowed Syria's
business links to shift from Europe elsewhere.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has signalled that Moscow
was ready to discuss a possible U.N. Security Council resolution
on Syria, if it targeted the government as well as opposition
for censure. .
(Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Rex