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Syria Sanctions: U.S. Targets Hezbollah, Syrian Firm For Supporting Assad Regime

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SYRIA SANCTIONS US HEZBOLLAH
Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah speaks to the crowd in a rare public appearance during a rally to mark the Muslim holy day of Ashoura, in the Hezbollah stronghold of south Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday Dec. 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein) | AP



WASHINGTON, Aug 10 (Reuters) - The United States imposed a new round of penalties against Syria on Friday that targeted state-run oil company Sytrol and said it was exposing Hezbollah for providing support to Bashar al-Assad's government.

The Lebanese Shi'ite group, which was designated by the United States as a foreign terrorist organization in 1995, has been providing training and extensive logistical support to Syria's government, the U.S. Treasury said.

U.S. officials said they did not know if the sanctions would have any financial effect on Hezbollah or whether other nations would impose economic penalties against the group, suggesting that they were largely symbolic.

"We believe that if they are presented with this information ... that they may want to take additional measures and over the long term that will limit the amount of space that Hezbollah has to operate," said Daniel Benjamin, the Obama administration's coordinator for counterterrorism.

"We do see very concrete benefits coming from this designation, whether they will be in the area of financial sanctions or not remains to be seen. But in terms of casting a bright light on what the group is doing, I think that is vitally important," Benjamin said on call with reporters.

The Obama administration said Hezbollah, an Islamist group backed by both Syria and Iran, has directly trained Syrian government officials within the country and has facilitated the training of Syrian forces by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Americans have been banned from doing business with Hezbollah since the foreign terrorist designation and Syria's central bank and top Syrian government officials are already blocked from U.S. markets.

The announcement came as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton travels to Turkey for talks as both countries prepare for the fallout of the 17-month-old uprising in Syria, where Assad is trying to crush a rebellion against his family's 42-year rule.

Washington also imposed sanctions on Syria's state-run oil company, Sytrol, for having provided gasoline to Iran.

The State Department said it had sanctioned Sytrol under the Iran Sanctions Act, which has been strengthened in recent years to make it more difficult for companies to trade with the energy sector in Iran, which the West suspects of seeking nuclear arms.

Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons, saying its program is solely for civilian purposes such as generating electricity.

The State Department said that in April, Syria and Iran engaged in two-way trade in the energy sector in which Syria sent 33,000 metric tons of gasoline to Iran. It said the United States put the value of the gasoline delivered by Sytrol to Iran in April at more than $36 million, well above the thresholds for triggering sanctions under the Iran sanctions act.

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lebanon Hussein Ali Omar, 60, one of 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims that Syrian rebels have been holding for three months in Syria, hugs his mother, right, upon arrival at his house in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, 2012. Syrian rebels freed Omar on Saturday in a move aimed at easing cross-border tensions after a wave of abductions of Syrian citizens in Lebanon. The Shiite pilgrims were abducted May 22 after crossing into Syria from Turkey on their way to Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)


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France24 correspondents Matthieu Mabin and Sofia Amara report from the front lines of a rebel offensive against the Syrian army in Damascus.

Watch the exclusive report in the video below.

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syria This image made from video and released by Shaam News Network and accessed Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, purports to show the funeral of children in Daraya, near Damascus, Syria. Syrian troops backed by tanks and helicopters broke into a Damascus suburb on Thursday following two days of shelling and intense clashes as part of a widening offensive by President Bashar Assad's forces to seize control of parts of the capital and surrounding areas from rebel fighters, activists said. At least 15 people were killed in the offensive on Daraya, only a few miles (kilometers) southwest of Damascus. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network SNN via AP video)


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Clashes between Assad supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime killed two people in Lebanon on Friday, the Associated Press reports. 17 people were injured.

The AP gives more context:

Syria was in virtual control of its smaller neighbor for many years, posting tens of thousands of troops in Lebanon, before withdrawing under pressure in 2005. Even without soldiers on the ground, Syria remains influential, and its civil war has stirred longstanding tensions that have lain under Lebanon's surface.

Read more on HuffPost World.

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lebanon A Sunni gunman fires a gun during clashes that erupted between pro and anti-Syrian regime gunmen in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon, Friday, Aug. 24, 2012. The latest round of fighting first erupted on Monday in northern Lebanon and at least 15 have been killed in Tripoli this week and more than 100 have been wounded in fighting that is a spillover from Syria's civil war. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)


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@ KenRoth : UN reports 200,000 #Syria refugees, 30,000 in past week alone. Many more internally displaced not counted. http://t.co/BaM6u59j

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syria Syrian boy Musataf Alhafiz, 11, who fled his home with his family due to fighting between the Syrian army and the rebels, carries his brother Saif, 9 months, while he and others take refuge at the Bab Al-Salameh border crossing, in hopes of entering one of the refugee camps in Turkey, near the Syrian town of Azaz, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. Thousands of Syrians who have been displaced by the country's civil war are struggling to find safe shelter while shelling and airstrikes by government forces continue. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)


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Helicopter gunships shelled Damascus on Wednesday as Syrian security forces intensified their assault on the capital. Activists report that at least 47 people were killed.

"The whole of Damascus is shaking with the sound of shelling," a woman in the neighborhood of Kfar Souseh told Reuters.

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@ jenanmoussa : Graphic. We saw in a mosque in #Syria these 4 children staring at dead body. Pic by @HaraldDoornbos: http://t.co/lgq8IAmO #warsucks @akhbar

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lebanon Lebanese commandos ride in an armored personnel carrier in preparation to enter the area of clashes between supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime, in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012. The civil war in Syria is affecting its fragile, tiny neighbor Lebanon in countless ways and has already spilled over into sectarian street clashes, kidnappings and general government paralysis.(AP Photo/Hussein Malla)


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Activists say that Syrian security forces swept through two districts in Damascus on Wednesday, killing at least 31 suspected opposition fighters. The Associated Press reports that the army may have been targeting rebel teams that had been using the Nahr Eishah and Kfar Soussa neighborhoods to shell a nearby military airport.

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@ AP : Russia says Western powers are "openly instigating" opposition groups in Syria: http://t.co/Il6rHsxr -SC

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