Syrian ‘al-Qaeda’ group in UN spotlight

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THE United Nations Security Council has begun informal talks on whether to impose sanctions on Syria’s rebel al-Nusra Front after it pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, France said yesterday.

The militant Islamist element of the Syrian conflict poses a quandary for Western powers and their Arab allies, which
favour the overthrow of president Bashar al-Assad but are alarmed by Sunni Muslim jihadi fighters whose fiercely anti-Shiite ideology has fuelled sectarian tensions in the Middle East.

French foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said given Wednesday’s announcement by Nusra chief Abu Mohammad al-Golani it was logical to look at how to deal with the Syrian group in the framework of the “fight against terrorism”.

“One option is to act at the UN Security Council … through the al-Qaeda 1267 sanctions committee,” he said.

He said talks were still at a very early stage.

Potential sanctions could include assets being frozen and travel bans.

The US designated the group a terrorist organisation last year.