Syria says sanctions on Assad serve Israeli interests

As Obama turns up heat on Syrian gov’t, official source in Damascus vows that "sanctions have not and will not affect Syria's independent will."

By REUTERS
May 19, 2011 13:45
1 minute read.
Assad

Assad 311 reuters. (photo credit: reuters)

 
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Syria condemned on Thursday sanctions imposed by Washington on Syrian President Bashar Assad and other officials in response to a crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

An official source on Syrian state television said the sanctions were targeting the Syrian people and served Israeli interests. "The sanctions have not and will not affect Syria's independent will," the source was quoted as saying.

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On Wednesday, the Obama administration sanctioned Assad, turning up the heat on the embattled leader the day before US President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy speech, expected to take a harsher line against Damascus.

Until now, the US has avoided personally targeting Assad, either by sanctions or by rhetoric. In addition to Wednesday’s financial moves, which freeze any US assets belonging to Assad, American officials intensified their criticism of the leader.

“The actions the administration has taken today send an unequivocal message to President Assad, the Syrian leadership and regime insiders that they will be held accountable for the ongoing violence and repression in Syria,” said David Cohen, acting under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

“President Assad and his regime must immediately end the use of violence, answer the calls of the Syrian people for a more representative government and embark upon the path of meaningful democratic reform.”

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In a letter to members of Congress, many of whom welcomed the sanctions, Obama said they came in response to the “continuous escalation of violence against the people of Syria.”

Additionally, a US official speaking on condition of anonymity warned that “President Assad has a clear choice: either to lead this transition to democracy or to leave.”

Hilary L. Krieger contributed to this report.

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