Treasury seeks to up pressure by sanctioning Syrian bank

In addition to imposing sanctions on Syria, the Obama administration has also said that Assad has lost the support of his people and should step aside.

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“We will make clear to the Assad regime and its supporters that the only future for Syria is one without Bashar al-Assad,” Cohen said Wednesday.

But top Republicans like Mitt Romney, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) have criticized President Obama for not being tough enough on Syria, where hundreds of people have died during the 15-month uprising.

Cohen said Wednesday that the sanctions were taking a toll on Syria that was mounting by the day. Under the sanctions announced Wednesday, Americans and U.S. companies are barred from doing business with SIIB, and the bank’s assets in the United States will be frozen.

Treasury also noted Wednesday that Qatar is ordering its banks to stop working with SIIB, and that it will host a meeting in Washington next week with Qatar and Turkey that will examine ways to further bulk up sanctions on Damascus.

But Cohen also noted there were challenges in working with other countries on the Syrian issue.

Russia and China, for instance, have impeded efforts at the United Nations to further sanction Syria. Cohen said that Syria would be one of the issues on the itinerary in an upcoming visit to Russia.