* EU, US, Arab League impose more sanctions on Syria
* Six civilians killed in army sweep of town -- rights group
* U.N. official says at least 4,000 killed since March
(Adds sanctions widened, estimated death tolls, IEDs defused)
By Douglas Hamilton
BEIRUT, Dec 1 The United States, European
Union and Arab League blacklisted Syrian VIPs and companies on
Thursday to force an end to the military crackdown on protesters
challenging the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.
Bloodshed continued in Syria in what one United Nations
official said was now a "civil war" that has cost at least 4,000
lives since March.
Six people were killed and five critically wounded during an
army sweep into the restive town of al-Trimsa in Hama province,
a hotbed of anti-Assad sentiment, the Syrian Observatory for
Human Rights said. At least four were killed in other incidents
as troops backed by tanks rounded up suspects by the score.
The Observatory, which keeps an hour-by-hour account of
violent incidents, says 4,530 people have died in eight months
of unrest, 1,244 of them from the security forces.
EU foreign ministers in Brussels agreed to impose new
sanctions on Syria's oil and financial sectors, and added 11
entities and 12 people to its list of those targeted by asset
freezes and travel bans.
The U.S. Treasury Department blacklisted two more Syrian
officials and two financial institutions.
An Arab League committee convening in Cairo listed 17 Syrian
VIPs banned from travel to Arab states, including Assad's
brother Maher who commands the military's elite Republican Guard
and is Syria's second most powerful man.
President Assad was not named in the travel blacklist.
Kuwait joined the list of Gulf countries advising nationals
to leave Syria for safety reasons.
The crisis erupted in March with street protests inspired by
anti-authoritarian revolts elsewhere in the Arab world. But in
reaction to Assad's iron fist policy, army units have defected
with their weapons to fight loyalist troops.
The state news agency SANA said border guards killed and
arrested several people from "armed terrorist groups who
infiltrated over the border (from Turkey) and attacked an
observation point" in the northwestern district of Idlib. A
border guard died during "long clashes", SANA reported.
It said army experts had defused two explosive devices
planted in a country road near the city of Homs.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said she
had told the U.N. Security Council in August "it is going to be
a civil war".
"At the moment that is how I am characterising it. We are
placing the (death toll) at 4,000, that is conservative, the
reliable information coming to us is that it is much more than
that," Pillay told a news conference in Geneva.
Western and Arab governments are demanding that Assad
withdraw forces from restive cities, free prisoners and start
talks with the opposition on greater political freedoms.
TAKE A LOOK: Unrest in Syria
The 27-member EU was expected on Friday to name names and
cite firms on its expanded sanctions list. The Syrian state oil
company General Petroleum Corporation (GPC) was among companies
deemed to be supporting what the EU calls the Assad regime,
Oil majors such as Royal Dutch Shell and France's Total
could see their Syrian ventures grind to a halt as the GPC joins
the roster of sanctioned companies, diplomatic sources told
Already blacklisted by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets
Control, GPC is responsible for supervising joint venture
companies in Syria. Royal Dutch Shell and China
National Petroleum Corporation are both partners of GPC through
the Al-Furat joint venture.
Some diplomatic sources said the blacklisting would likely
make it hard for European oil firms to keep operating in Syria.
Syria contributes less than 1 percent to daily world oil
output but oil brings in a big chunk of Syrian government
Turkey, Syria's biggest trade partner, suspended all
financial credit dealings with Damascus on Wednesday and froze
its assets, joining the Arab League in isolating Assad.
Western leaders show no enthusiasm for NATO intervention in
Syria of the sort that helped rebels topple Libyan dictator
Muammar Gaddafi. Syria has friends in Tehran and Moscow, and
Assad still has support at home.
But Turkey, a NATO member with a 900-km (560-km) long border
with Syria, says it does not want intervention in its fellow
Muslim state. It has raised the possibility of establishing a
buffer zone should there be a mass exodus of Syrians.
(Additional reporting by Omar Fahmy in Cairo, David Brunnstrom
and Justyna Pawlak in Brussels; Glenn Somerville in Washington;
Stephane Nebehay in Geneva; Erika Solomon in Beirut; editing by