Syrian Government says US sanctions over chemical attack will harm regular Syrians

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The Syrian Government says new sanctions imposed by America in response to a deadly chemical attack won't have the desired impact and will harm regular Syrians in need.

Speaking to Lateline, Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said the sanctions were a "bankrupt decision", designed to justify the US missile strike on a Syrian airbase two weeks ago.

The US Treasury Department has blacklisted 271 employees of a Syrian government agency, which it says was responsible for developing chemical weapons.

American banks have been ordered to freeze the assets of anyone named and US companies are banned from doing business with them.

"The sanctions are harming regular people, people who need milk, who need heating, who need other facilities," Dr Mekdad said.

"I am sure not a single person of those who were put on the list have any account in any bank.

"This is, frankly speaking, a bankrupt decision by the American administration and the justification for an unjustifiable attack on Syria."

Syria has continued to deny any involvement in a poison gas attack at Khan Sheikhoun that killed more than 80 people.

Dr Mekdad said the Government had established an internal committee to investigate.

He said the Government had sent a letter to the Organisation on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) asking for a group of international experts — including Russia and Iran — to visit Khan Sheikhoun and the military base hit by the US strike.

"We want a transparent, neutral group of experts from all countries to come to Syria and to see for themselves," he said.