A Syrian man walks past a banner bearing a portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian capital, Damascus, on November 10, 2015. AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA
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The United Nations paid at least $18 million last year to companies with close ties to Bashar Assad, some of them run by cronies of the Syrian president who are on U.S. and European Union blacklists.U.N. staff ran up a $9.5 million bill at the Four Seasons hotel in Damascus, co-owned by Syria's Tourism Ministry, according to the U.N.'s annual report on procurement for 2016, a 739-page document published in June.The U.N. has its own global blacklist and isn't bound by sanctions imposed by member states or regional blocs such as the EU. Still, the distribution of funds to Assad allies will further fuel criticism that the world body has failed badly over Syria.U.N. bodies have repeatedly condemned the conflict's atrocities. Western and Arab nations put most of the blame on Assad, yet the veto power wielded by Russia, a supporter of the Syrian regime, has prevented the U.N. Security Council from endorsing tougher action or adding Assad cronies to its blacklist.U.N. efforts to bring food and medical relief to Syria have been physically targeted by Assad's government – and also criticized by his opponents.
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