May 20, 2018
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Syrian ministers face Arab travel ban

By HADEEL AL-SHALCHI, The Associated Press

CAIRO — The Arab League unveiled a list of top Syrian officials facing a travel ban Wednesday, and Turkey imposed tough new sanctions against Damascus as pressure intensified for President Bashar Assad to end his regime’s violent effort to suppress an 8-month-old uprising.

The 17 officials who could be banned from traveling to other Arab countries include the defense and interior ministers, along with close members of Assad’s inner circle. Assad’s millionaire cousin, Rami Makhlouf, who has controlled the mobile phone network and other lucrative enterprises in Syria, and the president’s younger brother Maher, who is believed to be in command of much of the crackdown, also were on the list.

Despite the diplomatic squeeze, Syrian forces reportedly besieged several areas as the revolt against him showed no sign of slowing down. Activists said more than a dozen people were killed Wednesday, although the figure was impossible to confirm independently.

Syria has largely sealed off the country as its forces try to crush a remarkably resilient uprising against Assad’s autocratic rule. The United Nations says at least 3,500 people have been killed since the crackdown began in March.

“Every bullet fired, every bombed mosque has eliminated the legitimacy of the Syrian leadership and has widened the gap between us,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said at a news conference in Ankara, Turkey, in announcing the new sanctions. “Syria has squandered the last chance that it was given.”

Turkey’s move comes on top of sanctions already imposed by the Arab League, the United States and the European Union — punishing an already wobbling economy. Turkey and Syria did $2.4 billion in trade last year, according to the Turkish Embassy in Damascus.

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