US plans sanctions against more Syrian officials


Prominent American officials told Al Arabiya on Tuesday that new sanctions would be placed on additional Syrian officials and entities this week as part of a campaign to pressure the Syrian regime to halt its suppression of demonstrators.

Under the new sanctions, the assets held in American banks or investment firms by the officials and entities would be frozen.

European banks and financial firms in countries allied with the US usually follow suit and freeze the assets of individual or organizations under US sanctions.

The American officials told Al Arabiya that the US Justice Department and other agencies are collecting information and evidence that could be used to substantiate any human-rights cases filed with the International Court of Justice against civilian or military Syrian officials.

The officials are also considering the possibility of placing sanctions on the oil and gas sector in Syria, which, as one official put it, is the main financer of the campaign to suppress pro-reform demonstrations.

Syria has been gripped by more than three months of anti- government protests. Opposition officials say that some 1,400 people have been killed, most of them unarned protesters.

The violent reaction of Syrian security forces to the demonstrations has sparked international condemnation.

On May 18, the United States imposed sanctions against Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, and six other officials in his administration.

European Union leaders meeting at a summit in Brussels on June 24 announced travel bans and the freezing of assets for seven new Syrian individuals, including two cousins of President al-Assad, bringing the total number of people targeted to 30.

The White House described Monday’s meeting in Damascus of about 200 opposition figures and intellectuals as “worthwhile.”

But it asserted the move could not be considered a significant step forward as long as the government continues its violent crackdown on protestors.

The opposition meeting, the first such gathering since the start of a three-month uprising against President Assad’s regime, was dismissed by some opposition figures and activists, both inside Syria and abroad, as a government-sanctioned ruse designed to give legitimacy to the regime.

But participants, some of them prominent opposition figures who have long been persecuted by the regime, insisted that though the meeting had beenapproved by authorities it did not include government representatives.

They said their aim was to discuss strategies for a peaceful transition to democracy.

(Ayman Qenawi translated this story from Arabic.)