Washington: The US on Monday imposed “sweeping sanctions" on Syrian government officials in response to the suspected Sarin gas attack on civilians earlier this month. At a White House briefing, US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin announced sanctioning 271 employees of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Centre, the Syrian government agency responsible for developing and producing non- conventional weapons and means to deliver them.

Mnuchin said the treasury has targeted these 271 employees because they have expertise in chemistry and related fields or have worked in support of chemical weapons programs since at least 2012. “Today’s action, less than three weeks after the attack on Khan Shaykhun, is one of the largest ever executed by OFAC Office of Foreign Asset Control).

In a single action, we are more than doubling the number of individuals and entities sanctioned since the start of the Syrian conflict pursuant to Syria-related executive orders," Mnuchin said. The sweeping sanctions, he said, are intended to hold the Assad regime and those who support it directly or indirectly accountable for their blatant violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention and UN Security Council Resolution 21118.

“The United States is sending a strong message with this action that we will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons by any actor and we intend to hold the Assad regime accountable for its unacceptable behaviour," he said. Responding to questions, Mnuchin did not rule out additional sanctions against Syria, Iran and North Korea. PTI

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