Syrian Pound Slides as U.S., Allies Consider Military Strikes

Syria’s currency slid on the black market as the U.S. and its allies consider military strikes on the country to punish its government for alleged use of chemical weapons.

The pound dropped to 240 per dollar in unofficial trading, according to local currency websites and a trader who asked not to be identified. It was about 195 per dollar earlier this week. The official rate plunged 8.8 percent yesterday to 123.7 per dollar, according to the Syrian central bank.

Central Bank Governor Adib Mayaleh said there was no run on the currency to justify the drop, according to the state-run SANA news agency.

Syria has taken a series of measures to limit the decline of its currency, which plunged as low as 345 a dollar last month. President Bashar al-Assad has issued a decree banning the use of foreign currencies for payments and offenders may face prison sentences of three years. Syria’s 15 private banks have been allowed to sell dollars to Syrians at a rate fixed by the central bank and lower than the black market rate.

The pound traded at about 47 to the dollar before the start of the insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011. Since then, a deepening civil war together with international sanctions have crippled the country’s economy.

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