Saudi bank cites 'financial risks' in sale of Syrian bank

RIYADH // Banque Saudi Fransi, a Saudi lender part-owned by Credit Agricole SA, will sell its 27 per cent stake in Bemo Saudi Fransi Syria and its 10 per cent share capital in Bemo Lebanon.


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"The financial risks in the Arab Republic of Syria do not permit Banque Saudi Fransi to continue as partner," the Riyadh- based lender said in the statement on the Saudi bourse website. The bank "is no longer represented in the board of directors of Bemo Saudi Fransi Syria and Bemo Lebanon," it said.

The government of President Bashar Al-Assad is under increasing international pressure to end an eight-month crackdown against protesters in line with pledges made to the Arab League. Nine people were killed by security forces on Saturday, al-Arabiya television reported, citing the General Authority for the Syrian Revolution. The United Nations estimates that at least 3,500 people have been killed.

Syria may face sanctions from Arab League countries after missing a deadline to allow monitors from the bloc to enter the country. Sanctions may include the freezing of government assets, an embargo on dealings with the Central Bank of Syria and a ban on flights to and from the country if it refused to sign the agreement, the league said.

The 22-member body rejected Syrian requests to negotiate the terms of the deal, which was agreed on Nov. 2. The original deadline was Nov. 19.

The United Arab Emirates told its nationals to leave Syria because of "tensions" there caused by political unrest, the state-run WAM news agency said, citing a foreign ministry official.

Last week, the league suspended Syria, a founding member, for its handling of the unrest. It was the boldest action by the organisation since its condemnation of Muammar Qaddafi's repression of protests paved the way for the United Nations resolution in March authorising a NATO bombing campaign.

The UN has been paralysed over Syria since Oct. 4, when Russia and China blocked a Security Council resolution calling on Assad to halt the crackdown. The US and the European Union have already imposed sanctions targeting Syrian companies and senior officials.

*Bloomberg News

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