BRUSSELS - EU foreign ministers slapped a 15th round of sanctions on President Bashar al-Assad due to the ‘appalling violence’ in Syria and discussed further support for Kofi Annan’s peace plan on Monday.

A statement said that “in view of the gravity of the situation”, the ministers froze the assets of two entities financially supporting the regime and targeted three people with a travel ban and asset freeze. The new European Union sanctions, to take effect Tuesday, mean 128 people and 43 firms or utilities are now targeted by an assets freeze and travel ban for backing the regime’s 14-month campaign of relentless repression.

A Syrian originally targeted was removed from the EU blacklist after withdrawing support for the regime, a European diplomat told AFP.

“The continuing violence is appalling,” said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. “As long as the repression continues, we will continue to put pressure on those responsible for it.” The last sanctions came barely a month ago, targeting the lifestyle of the Assad clique through a ban on luxury goods exports. The bloc this year also froze central bank assets and restricted trade in precious metals as it tightened the noose on Damascus following an arms and oil embargo.

“The ceasefire is not being fully implemented,” said British Foreign Secretary William Hague. “There continues to be killing, torture, abuse in Syria. So it’s very important we keep the pressure on the Assad regime.” “We must maintain political pressure,” agreed Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn. Ministers also urged a quick deployment of all ceasefire observers under the peace plan brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, which the EU sees as the only possible way to avoid all-out civil war in Syria.

Ashton said the bloc at the weekend delivered a fleet of armoured vehicles to help Annan’s mission. Diplomats said the EU had financed 25 vehicles and that further medical assistance might also be offered.

But in a joint statement, the ministers said “the EU underlines that the six-point plan is not an open-ended offer.”

Meanwhile, at least 30 people were killed in violence across Syria on Monday, among them 23 soldiers who died in fierce clashes between regime forces and rebels in the central city of Rastan, a watchdog said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said reports indicated that three troop carriers were destroyed in the clashes that began at dawn on the outskirts of the rebel-held city in Homs province, which United Nations observers had toured last month.

A lieutenant who had defected was also killed in the clashes, and random regime gunfire reportedly left two civilians dead in the city of Homs itself.

The Observatory said a child was killed and dozens wounded in shelling of the city by Syrian troops on Sunday. The bombardment by regime forces resumed following Monday’s deadly clashes, it added. And in Quraya in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, a 15-year-old boy was killed by machinegun fire as regime forces raided the town, the Observatory said, bringing to at least 30 the number of people reportedly killed.