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A handout picture from the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) shows Syrian soldiers withdrawing on army lorries on August 10, 2011, from the city of Hama after a 10-day military operation to quell pro-democracy protests.

AFP/Getty Images/AFP/Getty Images

Stephen Harper says Canada will be escalating sanctions against Syria in protest of the Mid-East country's increasingly violent crackdown on anti-government protesters.

"We continue to condemn the brutal actions of the Syrian government in the strongest possible terms," Mr. Harper said during a trade mission stop in San Jose, Costa Rica. "Their behaviour is outrageous. I think they are on a path that frankly is not sustainable."

He said Canada will keep working with allies to bring diplomatic pressure to bear on Syria.

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"We will work with our partners to do what we can, including bringing forth stronger sanctions,' Mr. Harper said.

"That is something we will be elaborating on in the not too distant future.

The U.S. government recently slapped new sanctions on top Syrian businesses connected to the Bashar al-Assad's regime in Damascus. These include mobile phone operator Syriatel and the state-owned Commercial Bank of Syria, on suspicion of financing the country's missile production plants.

In May, Ottawa announced it would bar senior members of the Syrian government from Canada as part of sanctions to punish the country for an "abhorrent" crackdown on civilian protests.

The new measures, including a ban on arms exports to Syrian security forces, were adopted in late May by the new cabinet committee on national security chaired by Mr. Harper.

The Canadian government's intent with its earlier sanctions was to ensure that members of governing families in dictatorships do not seek refuge in Canada or use the country's banks to hide their wealth. The government is still trying to find a way to confiscate funds in Canada that belong to the former ruling family of Tunisia.

Recent statistics show that Canada's exports to Syria totalled about $60-million in 2009.

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With files from Agence France Presse

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