Sanctions lifted on Syrian businessman

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The Treasury Department is removing Nabil Rafik al Kuzbari, the 76-year-old former chairman of Syria's largest investment firm, Cham Holding, from its list of individuals prohibited from doing business in the United States.

According to a Treasury official, sanctions against Kuzbari are being lifted because he "has severed his ties" with the company's majority owner, Rami Makhouf, who is also a cousin of Assad, the Syrian president responsible for cracking down against the uprising in his country.

Kuzbari's assets were declared frozen in a May 2011, executive order signed by President Obama that also imposed sanctions against the regime's leader for the first time.

In the order, Obama said the sanctions were being imposed "in order to take additional steps with respect to the Government of Syria’s continuing escalation of violence against the people of Syria — including through attacks on protesters, arrests and harassment of protesters and political activists, and repression of democratic change, overseen and executed by numerous elements of the Syrian government … ."

The lifting of sanctions comes as international forces reconsider their financial blacklisting of Syrian assets.

On Monday, the European Union is expected to announce it will ease an oil embargo to allow countries to purchase crude oil from Syrian rebels. The prospective announcement, part of a strategy to further aid rebel forces by providing them with an influx of cash, will also allow European oil companies to sell equipment to the opposition so they can build up their energy sector.

An estimated 70,000 people have been killed in the two-year uprising in Syria, the United Nations reported in February.

--This report was updated at 3:12 p.m.