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Assad's cousin rejects government demand he step down from mobile operator

May 17, 2020 at 5:00 pm

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad (L) in Sochi, Russia on 21 November 2017 [Kremlin Press Office/Anadolu Agency] and Rami Makhlouf, a wealthy businessman and the cousin of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad (R) [Twitter]

Syrian tycoon Rami Makhlouf said on Sunday that authorities had set a deadline for him to resign from top mobile operator Syriatel or they would revoke its licence but that he would not step down, Reuters reports.

In a video, the third he has issued bringing into the open a rift with his cousin Syrian President Bashar al Assad, Makhlouf said the collapse of Syriatel, a main revenue earner for the government, would deal a “catastrophic” blow to the economy.

Makhlouf was part of the president’s inner circle and has played a big role in financing Assad’s war effort, Western officials have said, citing his business empire which includes telecoms, real estate, construction and oil trading.

READ: Is Putin behind the split in Syria’s Assad family?

“If you don’t comply … the licence will be revoked and they said you have until Sunday to either comply or the company will be taken and its assets seized,” Makhlouf said.

It was not clear when the video was taken and if he meant this Sunday or next.

“You are, by this, destroying the economy of Syria,” Makhlouf added.

This month he accused security forces of arresting his employees in an “inhumane way” in an unprecedented attack from within the system by one of the country’s most influential figures.