Protesters against Syrian President Bashar Assad 311 (R).
(photo credit: Osman Orsal / Reuters)
The US Treasury Department on Thursday imposed sanctions against two Syrian officials and two firms, the Arab League put
Syrian VIPs on a travel ban list on Thursday and European Union foreign ministers
approved a raft of economic sanctions against President Bashar Assad to
press him into stopping a military crackdown on popular protests.
crisis erupted in March with street unrest inspired by
anti-authoritarian revolts elsewhere in the Arab world. But driven by
Assad's iron fist policy towards civilian protesters, Syria may be
sliding towards civil war as some soldiers and officers defect with
their weapons to fight loyalist troops.
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Treasury blacklisted Muhammad Makhluf, an uncle of Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad, and Aus Asla who was described as a general in the Syrian military and said Americans are banned from any dealings with them.
It also named the Military Housing Establishment as a Syrian government-controlled company that provides financing to the regime and Real Estate Bank, which Treasury said handles borrowing for the government. Americans are prohibited from any dealings with the firms.
Treasury said it was critical to escalate pressure against the Syrian government to stop the use of brutal tactics against pro-democracy protesters.
An Arab League committee meeting in Cairo
listed 17 people banned from travel to Arab states, including Assad's
brother Maher who commands the military's elite Republican Guard and is
Syria's second most powerful man.
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The Egyptian state news agency
said the draft blacklist in a sanctions policy adopted at the weekend by
19 of the League's 22 members includes the defense and interior
ministers, intelligence officials and senior military officers.
and Lebanon, neighbors of Syria who have sensitive sectarian, strategic
and trade relationships with Damascus, declined to join the League's
The Arab League committee charged with
overseeing sanctions also recommended stopping flights to and from Syria
starting in mid-December. But it said sales of wheat, medicine, gas and
electricity should be exempted from the embargo.
The sanctions package was due to be finalized by Saturday.
In Brussels, European
Union governments agreed to ratchet up pressure on Syria by
adding 11 entities and 12 people to its sanctions list, an EU official
The list of names will become public as early as Friday and
while details were not immediately available, diplomats have said that
Syrian state oil company General Petroleum Corporation (GPC) would be
among those targeted.
Oil majors such as Royal Dutch Shell
and France's Total could see their Syrian ventures grind to a halt as
the GPC joins the roster of sanctioned companies, diplomatic sources
told Reuters on Wednesday.
Already blacklisted by the US Office
of Foreign Assets Control, GPC is responsible for supervising joint
venture companies in Syria. Royal Dutch Shell and China National
Petroleum Corporation are both partners of GPC through the Al-Furat
Some diplomatic sources said the
blacklisting would likely make it hard for European oil firms to keep
operating in Syria.
would be designated, which would force European companies that are
there to declare 'force majeure' (bowing to an event they could not
anticipate or control)," said one of the European diplomatic
Syrian oil comprises less than 1 percent
of daily world output but represents a big chunk of Syrian government
further tightening of sanctions may be a reaction to evidence that
Syria has resumed exporting crude oil after an early bout of sanctions
on European imports forced a temporary pause in oil flows.
majors Shell and Total as well as the UK's Gulfsands have investments in
Syria and have been forced to cut output in the country for lack of
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