U.S. Treasury to Freeze Assets of Syrian Bank

The U.S. Treasury Department said today that it will freeze the assets of the Commercial Bank of Syria; the Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank, a subsidiary; and the mobile phone company Syriatel for supporting Syrian and North Korean weapons programs.

“We are taking aim at the financial infrastructure that is helping provide support” to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, David Cohen, under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a Treasury press statement.

Assad has sparked international criticism for a deadly five-month crackdown on dissidents. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain have withdrawn their ambassadors from Damascus, and Turkey said its neighbor is entering a “critical” period. U.S. President Barack Obama has said Assad is losing legitimacy as a leader, stopping short of calling for him to step down.

Pressure is mounting at the United Nations for a formal resolution against the bloodshed. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon will update the Security Council today on the deepening violence in Syria, a week after it condemned Assad’s use of force against civilians in a statement that fell short of the resolution Europe and the U.S. sought.

The U.S. is interested in tougher sanctions on the country, including possible action on oil and gas, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters yesterday in Washington.

Weapons Ties

In the statement, Treasury said it sanctioned the Commercial Bank of Syria because it provided financial services to Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center and North Korea’s Tanchon Commercial Bank.

The Syrian research center controls the country’s missile production facilities and manages Syria’s development of unconventional weapons, according to the Treasury statement.

Tanchon is the primary financial agent for the Korea Mining Development Corp., North Korea’s main arms dealer, the statement said.

The bank also has had dealings with several Iranian banks that have been sanctioned by the U.S., the statement said.

Syriatel is owned and run by Rami Makhluf, a “regime insider” who has contributed to the corruption of Syrian public officials, the Treasury Department said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Bliss in Washington at jbliss@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

Press spacebar to pause and continue. Press esc to stop.

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.