- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 30, 2012

WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department is levying sanctions on a key Syrian bank as it seeks to ratchet up economic pressure on President Bashar Assad’s regime.

Treasury says the Syria International Islamic Bank has been acting as a front for other Syrian financial institutions seeking to circumvent sanctions. The new penalties will prohibit the SIIB from engaging in financial transactions in the U.S. and will freeze any assets under U.S. jurisdiction.

The tightened sanctions come as the U.S. grapples for ways to quell deadly violence in Syria and spur a political transition.

Treasury says it will also host a meeting in Washington next week of the Friends of Syria working group on sanctions. The meeting, co-chaired by the U.S., Turkey and Qatar, will focus on ways to strengthen sanctions against Assad’s regime.