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Obama Administration Sanctions Syria Over Past Chlorine Attacks

The Obama administration imposed sanctions Thursday on a Syrian tech company it accused of helping Syria's ballistic missile program.
A young man sits on a bed on March 17, 2015 at a clinic in the village of Sarmin, southeast of Idlib, the capital of Syria's northwestern province of Idlib, following reports of suffocation cases related to an alleged regime gas attack in the area.MOHAMAD ZEEN / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration imposed sanctions Thursday on a Syrian tech company it accused of helping Syria's ballistic missile program.

The Organization for Technological Industries' primary mission is importing advanced strategic technologies for surface-to-surface missile and rocket programs in Syria, the State Department said in a statement. The new sanctions ban Americans from doing business with the company and freeze any assets it had in the United States.

Additionally, The United States on Thursday blacklisted 18 senior Syrian officials it said were connected to the country's weapons of mass destruction program, after an international investigation found Syrian government forces were responsible for chlorine gas attacks against civilians.

The action marked the first time the United States has sanctioned Syrian military officials for the government's use of chemical weapons, according to a Treasury Department statement.

Related: What Can Trump Do to Stop Syria War From Haunting U.S.?

The actions follow the findings of a U.N.-authorized investigation into chemical weapons attacks in Syria. It concluded that Syrian President Bashar Assad's government conducted two chlorine gas attacks. Those occurred after a much deadlier sarin gas attack in the Damascus suburbs in 2013 that the U.S. and Western countries blamed on Assad's forces.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government has denied its forces have used chemical weapons.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the country's nearly six-year-old civil war.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms the Syrian regime's use of chemical weapons," Ned Price, spokesman for President Barack Obama's National Security Council, said. "The Assad regime's barbaric continued attacks demonstrate its willingness to defy basic standards of human decency, its international obligations and longstanding global norms."

The State Department said the sanctions target "the assets of WMD proliferators and their supporters in an effort to curb the spread of WMD and protect the U.S. financial system from being exploited by proliferators."