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US imposes sanctions on 271 Employees of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) over Syrian Government’s Chemical Attack

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A civil defense member breathes through an oxygen mask, after what rescue workers described as a suspected gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib, Syria, April 4, 2017. VOA
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Washington, Apr 25, 2017: The US slapped sanctions on 271 employees of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) in response to Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons, media reports said.

The employees of SSRC, a Syrian government agency, are designated for their role in “developing and producing non-conventional weapons and the means to deliver them,” Xinhua news agency cited a statement by the US Treasury Department on Monday.

“These 271 SSRC employees have expertise in Chemistry and related disciplines and/or have worked in support of SSRC’s chemical weapons program since at least 2012,” it added.

As a result of the action, any property or interest of the designated persons in the US must be blocked, and US persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.

The sanctions are part of Washington’s response to what it believed the April 4 sarin attack on innocent civilians in Khan Sheikhoun in east Syria by the Syrian government.

Two days after the alleged chemical attack, the US launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase to neutralize its chemical weapon arsenal.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that with Monday’s sanctions, the US is sending a strong message that it would “hold the entire Assad regime accountable for these blatant human rights violations”.  (IANS)

 

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White House: Judge’s Decision Halting Travel Ban ‘Dangerously Flawed’

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Travel Ban
A sign for International Arrivals is shown at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle.VOA

The White House is reacting furiously to a federal judge blocking President Donald Trump’s latest executive Travel Ban order that would have banned entry to travelers from several countries beginning Wednesday.

“Today’s dangerously flawed district court order undercuts the president’s efforts to keep the American people safe and enforce minimum security standards for entry into the United States,” said a White House statement issued Tuesday shortly after Judge Derrick Watson ruled against restrictions on travelers from six countries the Trump administration said could not provide enough information to meet U.S. security standards.

The travel ban order would have barred to various degrees travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

Watson’s temporary restraining order does not interfere with restrictions on North Korea and Venezuela.

Justice Department defends White House

The Justice Department “will vigorously defend the president’s lawful action,” the White House said, contending its proclamation restricting travel was issued after an extensive worldwide security review.

The Justice Department called the ruling incorrect and said it will appeal the decision “in an expeditious manner.”

Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke said: “While we will comply with any lawful judicial order, we look forward to prevailing in this matter upon appeal.”

Acting Director of Homeland Security Elaine Duke
Acting Director of Homeland Security Elaine Duke testifies before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA

No change for North Korea, Venezuela

The new travel order “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor: it lacks sufficient findings that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from six specified countries would be ‘detrimental to the United States,'” Judge Watson wrote in his opinion.

The White House argues that its restrictions “are vital to ensuring that foreign nations comply with the minimum security standards required for the integrity of our immigration system and the security of our nation.”

Officials in the White House are expressing confidence that further judicial review will uphold the president’s action.

Hawaii involved for third time

Consular officials have been told to resume “regular processing of visas” for people from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, according to a State Department official.

The suit on which Judge Watson ruled on Tuesday was filed by the state of Hawaii, the Muslim Association of Hawaii and various individuals.

“This is the third time Hawaii has gone to court to stop President Trump from issuing a travel ban that discriminates against people based on their nation of origin or religion,” said Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin. “Today is another victory for the rule of law.”(VOA)