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US hits Syrian bank, cellular firm with sanctions
US slaps sanctions on big Syrian bank, largest cell phone firm
By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) ' The Obama administration is slapping sanctions on one of Syria's biggest banks and its largest cellphone operator as it boosts pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad to stop the brutal suppression of pro-reform demonstrations.

The Treasury Department announced Wednesday that it has added the state-owned Commercial Bank of Syria and its Lebanon-based subsidiary, the Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank, and mobile phone company Syriatel to a financial blacklist. The sanctions freeze any assets the firms may have in U.S. jurisdictions and bar Americans from doing business with them.

The step comes as the administration prepares for the first time to explicitly call for Assad to step down amid his regime's increasingly repressive crackdown on opponents.

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