Assad cousin quits as Syrian troops operate in North

June 17, 2011

With Syrian troops and armored vehicles continuing their campaign against anti-regime protesters in the north of the country, Syrian tycoon Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of President Bashar al-Assad, has announced he is quitting his involvement in business.

The move is seen as an apparent concession to demonstrators who have been calling for an end to corruption and abuses under the Assad regime.

The announcement came ahead of Friday prayers. Previous Fridays have frequently seen the biggest protests and the heaviest bloodshed during Syria's three-month-old unrest.

Makhlouf is reported to control Syria's largest mobile-phone operator and other lucrative businesses. State-run Syrian media said he is quitting his businesses and will now devote his wealth to charity and development projects.

The United States and European Union have both imposed sanctions on Makhlouf.

The announcement came as reports said Syrian security forces were gathering around two northern towns, Khan Sheikhun and Maarat al-Numan, in an apparent continuation of an operation against opposition protests.

compiled from agency reports