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U.S. steps up pressure on Syria, levies sanctions on Syrian government officials

By AP | Last updated: May 19, 2014 - 12:35:02 PM

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WASHINGTON - Stepping up pressure on Syria, the Treasury Department sanctioned six Syrian officials and a Russian bank for their alleged support of the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has been fighting opposition forces in a 3-year-old bloody civil war.


Treasury said Tempbank, based in Moscow, has provided millions of dollars in cash and has helped facilitate financial services to the Syrian government.

Throughout the crisis in Syria, Russia has been in Mr. Assad’s corner, while the U.S. has supported the opposition.

Sanctions also were slapped on the bank’s senior executive, Mikhail Gagloev, who the U.S. claims has personally traveled to the Syrian capital of Damascus to make deals with Mr. Assad’s government.

“In addition to its close cooperation with the Central Bank of Syria, Tempbank has facilitated deals and provided financial services to SYTROL, a Syrian state oil company sanctioned by the United States and the European Union,” federal authorities charged.

David Cohen, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said the action builds on the Treasury Department’s ongoing effort to apply economic pressure on the Syrian government by “choking off access to the international financial system.”

Two Syrian refining businesses, Banias Refinery Co. and Homs Refinery Co., also were placed on the U.S. sanctions list. To date, the United States has imposed sanctions on nearly 200 individuals and entities since the onset of unrest in Syria, including the government of Syria, its central bank, and affiliated oil companies.

More than 150,000 people have been killed in clashes between rebels and forces loyal to Mr. Assad, with millions of others displaced by the war.