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U.S. Sanctions Syrian Oil Company for Selling Gas to Iran

By Phillip Kurata | Staff Writer | 10 August 2012
Children by piles of desks (AP Images)

Children take shelter from fighting behind piles of desks in an abandoned school outside Aleppo.

Washington — The United States has imposed sanctions on Syria’s state-run oil company for selling gasoline to Iran, saying it will “employ all available measures” to halt sales of refined petroleum products to Iran.

“The United States remains deeply concerned about the close ties shared by the Iranian and Syrian regimes and is committed to using every tool available to prevent regional destabilization,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in a statement August 10.

The sanctions were imposed in response to the Syrian oil company’s sale of 33,000 metric tons of gasoline to Iran in April, according to the statement. “This kind of trade allows Iran to continue developing its nuclear program while providing the Syrian government with resources to oppress its own people,” Ventrell said.

The United States charges Iran with actively advising, supplying and assisting the Syrian regime in carrying out gross human rights violations. “Iran’s actions in Syria underscore its fear of losing its only remaining ally in the Middle East,” Ventrell said. He added that the pro-Iranian group based in Lebanon, Hezbollah, is serving as a conduit for Iranian aid to the Syrian regime.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is on her way to Turkey for talks with Turkish leaders and Syrian opposition activists to coordinate efforts to oust the regime of Bashar al-Assad and start planning to help Syria after Assad falls. The opposition activists include students who have organized protests, women addressing the needs of women in the opposition, and communication specialists using Skype, Facebook and other tools to disseminate information about what is happening inside Syria to the rest of the world. More than 50,000 Syrians have fled into Turkey.

“She will talk to them about what their assessment of where things are, where they’re headed and what kinds of support they need from the United States and the international community,” said an official traveling with the secretary.

“The goal here is to try, as much as possible, to … arrive at a common operational picture, to gain a better understanding of the effectiveness of what we’re doing now … then take it from there and to coordinate effectively with the other key partners in the international community,” the official, who asked not to be identified, said.

In the coming week, Clinton will confer with key U.S. allies in Europe and elsewhere about supporting a gathering of the Friends of the Syrian People. The United States supports a future Syria that is pluralistic and democratic with effective institutions, the official said.