NICOSIA/PAPHOS, Cyprus - The European Union may impose new sanctions on the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad as soon as next month, EU diplomats said on Saturday.

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said his EU counterparts meeting in Cyprus had agreed new sanctions were needed and had tasked Catherine Ashton, the bloc's foreign policy chief, with preparing suggestions for talks next month.

The agreement comes amid frustration that Assad is clinging to power despite a 17-month uprising against him and several rounds of EU sanctions. These include an arms embargo and travel bans and asset freezes on around 50 businesses and 150 people.

Ashton said the bloc would also boost its efforts to help refugees and other victims of the Syrian conflict and support Lakhdar Brahimi, the new UN-Arab League special envoy.

"Sanctions are under review," Ashton told a news conference in Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, after the meeting. "Not only to consider whether more sanctions should be taken but to make sure that the enforcement of sanctions is done properly and any ability to evade them is dealt with."

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