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U.S. sets sanctions on Syria, Iran over rights abuses

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Treasury Department said on Wednesday it was imposing sanctions against Syria's security forces for human rights abuses and against Iran for supporting the Syrian regime.

Treasury named the four major branches of Syria's security forces and said any assets they may have subject to U.S. jurisdiction will be frozen and that Americans are barred from any dealing with them.

"Today's action builds on the (Obama) administration's efforts to pressure (Syrian President Bashar) al-Assad and his regime to end the use of wanton violence," said David Cohen, Treasury's acting under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner was asked what effect the sanctions would have, given that those targeted were unlikely to have assets under U.S. jurisdiction.

"These (sanctions) also limit the ability for other international companies and investors to do business with them as well, so it does have a broad reach," Toner said.

"More importantly, it sends a message that we're watching these individuals' actions and not only watching them but we're taking action against them."

Treasury also named Ismail Ahmadi Moghadam, the chief of Iran's Law Enforcement Forces, and a deputy, Ahmad-Reza Radan, for aiding Syria. It said Radan traveled to Damascus in April to offer expertise in Syria's crackdown on the Syrian people.

Syria has been in turmoil for three months as pro-democracy forces press al-Assad's government for reforms. Syria has imposed restrictions on media that make it difficult to verify accounts of violence but rights groups claim hundreds of protesters have been killed and thousands detained.

(Reporting by Glenn Somerville; Additional reporting by Andrew Quinn; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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