A round of discussions was held in Brussels earlier this week and EU capitals raised no objections to banning Syrian crude imports, in a move similar to a decision by the US earlier this month
If approved, however, the new measures are unlikely to prevent European oil companies such as Royal Dutch Shell or Total from continuing to produce crude in Syria through joint ventures.
The EU's 27 governments agreed last Friday to explore new sanctions against Assad in response to his five-month crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators, in which the United Nations says 2,200 civilians have been killed.
Gaddafi's defeat in Libya may encourage Western nations to step up moves against Assad, who has pursued parallel policies of strengthening ties with Iran and Shi'ite Lebanese guerrillas while seeking peace talks with Israel and accepting European and US overtures that were key to his rehabilitation him on the international stage.
A senior diplomat based in the Middle East said an oil embargo could rattle business alliances between the ruling family, who are from Syria's minority Alawite sect, and a Sunni merchant class influential in Damascus and the commercial hub of Aleppo that has generally not supported the uprising.
Syria exports over a third of its 385,000 barrels of daily crude oil output to Europe, mainly the Netherlands, Italy, France and Spain. Eastern Syria, including the Kurdish northeast, produces the entire nation's oil.
A disruption would cut off a major source of foreign currency that helps to finance the security apparatus, and restrict funds at Assad's disposal to reward loyalists and continue a crackdown in which the United Nations says 2,200 people have been killed.
The official state news agency quoted Assad as telling loyalist clerics during a Ramadan iftar meal that the West was pressuring Syria "to sell out, which will not happen because the Syrian people have chosen to have an independent will".
In an interview with state TV this week, Assad said the unrest "has shifted toward armed acts". Authorities blame the violence on "armed terrorist groups," who they say have killed an unspecified number of civilians and 500 soldiers and police.
Human Rights Watch said in a new report that civilian deaths documented by Syrian human rights groups "have occurred in circumstances in which there was no threat to Syrian forces".
The Arab League said it would hold an urgent meeting on Saturday (27 August) to discuss Syria, but no Arab states have indicated willingness to impose regional sanctions on Syria's ruling hierarchy.
EurActiv with Reuters