U.S. Announces Sanctions on Syrian Companies

Americans are prohibited from doing business with a major telecommunications firm and a bank

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The U.S. Treasury Department today told Americans not to do business with two Syrian companies: the nation's largest telecommunications company Syriatal, which is owned by a cousin of President Bashar al-Assad, and the Bank of Syria, including its subsidiary the Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank. The department said Americans were "generally prohibited from engaging in commercial or financial transactions" with the companies. CNN has the details:

Under-Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen said the government is "taking aim" at the "financial infrastructure" of President Bashar al-Assad and his regime, criticized for cracking down on peaceful protesters over the last five months.

Cohen said Syria's largest bank was designated for providing financial services to Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Center and North Korea's Tanchon Commercial Bank. They have been cited before for their backing of weapons of mass destruction proliferation.

The SSRC "controls Syria's missile production facilities and oversees Syria's facilities to develop unconventional weapons and their delivery systems."

Treasury targeted Syriatel because it was controlled by Rami Makhluf, the report said. Makhluf, an Al-Assad regime insider and cousin of the president, has already been cited "for improperly benefiting from and aiding the public corruption of Syrian regime officials."

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