Middle East

U.S. to announce new Syria sanctions: official

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the U.S.-South Africa Business Partnership Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, Monday, Aug. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

ACCRA, Ghana: The United States plans new sanctions targeting Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime and its supporters in a bid to put further pressure on Damascus, a U.S. State Department official said Friday.

"...One of the key forms of pressure is economic sanctions, which in the coming days or very shortly we will be tightening further with additional sanctions (on) both Syrian entities and those who are supporting the efforts of the Syrian government to oppress its own people," the official said.

The official spoke during U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to the West African nation of Ghana, where she was attending the funeral of president John Atta Mills.

She is due to also briefly visit Benin on Friday before flying to Istanbul for talks on the Syrian crisis.

On July 18, the U.S. Treasury Department announced measures against 29 members of the Syrian regime, including the ministers of finance, economy, justice and information, as well as the governor of the central bank.

Senior Treasury Department official David Cohen had described the move as part of an "unwavering commitment" to press Assad's regime to "end the carnage and relinquish power."

While Washington had already frozen the assets of around 100 members of the regime and barred U.S. firms from doing business with them, the move in July represented a significant ramping up of the pressure on the regime's inner circle.

In addition to new sanctions, Clinton is expected to announce Saturday in Istanbul an additional $5.5 million in humanitarian assistance for those fleeing the conflict in Syria, another U.S. official said.

Meanwhile, Syrian rebels vowed to fight on in Aleppo a day after being driven out of a key district under heavy shellfire by the army, which targeted other parts of the strategic city Friday.

That came as world powers were preparing to name veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi as their new envoy to seek a peaceful and politically workable end to a 17-month uprising that has cost more than 21,000 lives.

Russia and China have vetoed three U.N. resolutions proposed by Western powers hinting at or threatening sanctions against Assad, fearing that they could lead to a Libyan-style foreign military intervention in Syria.

Clinton has said that Washington would work closely with the Syrian opposition in its battle to force Assad to hand over power.

After failing to win the U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria, the United States is working outside the council to send "a clear message of support for the opposition", she had said.

"After the veto of the resolutions, we have made clear that we were shifting ... to a focus on supporting the opposition," the State Department official who spoke on the sanctions said Friday.





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