The EU bans the wife of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from travelling to the EU or shopping with European companies in a move to stop her buying the Chanel dresses and Louboutin shoes she craves.

Asma and Bashar al-Assad meeting the Queen in 2002 (Reuters)

The European Union decided on Friday to impose sanctions on Asma Assad, the wife of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, increasing pressure on his government to end a crackdown on popular unrest. President Assad is already subject to sanctions.

Among the measures approved by EU foreign ministers in Brussels was a travel ban and an asset freeze for Assad's British-born wife, Asma. The Home Office told Channel 4 News that under immigration rules however, as a British citizen, Mrs Assad will not be refused entry to the UK.

The EU's latest round of sanctions, which also targeted the president's mother and sister, is notable for including Mrs Assad, whose luxury shopping habit was laid bare this month in a cache of hacked emails.

The decision came the day after more than 40 people died in clashes across Syria, as a United Nations Security Council call for an immediate end to the fighting was ignored.

President Assad has been the target of sanctions since May 2011, but these have so far had little impact on his policies.

Read more: Who are the Assads?

EU ministers also imposed asset freezes and bans on travel to the EU on several other Syrians and banned European companies from doing business with two Syrian entities, EU officials said.

Welcome

A full list of the targets of the sanctions will be made public on 24 March when the decision comes into force. Foreign Secretary William Hague has welcomed the ban. In a statement he said: "I strongly welcome the EU's agreement today to impose sanctions on an additional two oil companies and a further 12 individuals closely associated with the brutal repression being carried out by the Syrian regime.

"This is a further step in tightening the economic and diplomatic stranglehold on this criminal regime. The message to those who continue to side with Assad is clear – the violence must end and those responsible will be held to account."

A former investment banker who has cultivated an image of a woman inspired by western values, Asma Assad has recently become a hate figure for many Syrians.

She has stood by her husband during a year-long crackdown on popular unrest in which the United Nations says at least 8,000 people have died.

"The real dictator"

In recent weeks Asma Assad became the focus of media attention when a trove of emails between her and her husband appeared to show them shopping for pop music and luxury items while Syria descended into bloodshed.

In one of the emails, Asma described herself as "the real dictator". Asma Assad's ancestral home is Homs, now a symbol of the revolt which has been subjected to particularly fierce government attack.

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