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U.S. Announces Sanctions On 271 Syrians Over April 4 Chemical Attack

26 April 2017

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin talks to reporters during Monday's press briefing at the White House. The U.S. blames Assad for a recent chemical attack on Syrian civilians, and responded earlier this month by launching missiles against a Syrian airfield.

The Syrian National Coalition of Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, as well as a number of Western states, accused the Syrian government troops of carrying out the attack, while Damascus has refuted these allegations, saying it did not possess chemical weapons.

The Treasury's addition of 271 Syrian scientists to the sanctions list followed a decision made during the last days of former President Barack Obama's administration in January to sanction 18 Syrian government individuals, described as "senior regime officials" and top Syrian military figures.

The employees have expertise in chemistry or related fields and have worked in the chemical weapons programme.

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On January 12th last, the USA treasury sanctioned six SSRC officials it said were linked to branches of the agency affiliated with chemical weapons logistics or research.

The new punitive measures also ban U.S. companies from conducting business with them.

The Obama administration later negotiated an agreement with Russian Federation that led to global removal of what were said to be all of Assad's chemical weapons stocks.

"The abhorrent attack on Khan Sheikhoun is a stark reminder that the worldwide community must work together to deter the future use of chemical weapons in any circumstances", he said. The Treasury Department prohibited any United States individual or company from dealing with those employees.

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Plus, the sanctions are so sweeping that they could be hard to roll back in the event there actually is some sort of political transfer of power to put paid to the six-year old Syrian civil war. "We welcome the role sanctions play in increasing pressure on the Syrian regime to turn away from its military campaign".

Mnuchin had indicated that sanctions were on the way before Treasury finally dropped the hammer on Monday.

Syria had agreed in 2013 to get rid of its chemical weapons arsenal after an earlier chemical weapons attack.

In Syria on Monday, an air strike killed eight family members, five of them children, as they fled fighting between US-allied Syrian forces and Islamic State militants, according to local activists, who said the strike appeared to have been launched by the US-led coalition.

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