Ratchetting up the pressure, the Obama administration slapped sanctions Wednesday on Syria's largest commercial bank and cell phone operator as it moved to demand the end of four decades of dictatorship under the Assad family. The Treasury Department added the state-owned Commercial Bank of Syria and its Lebanon-based subsidiary, the Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank, to its sanctions list, citing their links to human rights abuses and to illegal weapons trade with North Korea. Mobile phone company Syriatel was targeted because it is controlled by "one of the regime's most corrupt insiders," said David Cohen, the department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
NATO: Airstrike on Libya killed troops: NATO and Libyan officials both refuted damaging claims Wednesday in the 6-month-old civil war, with NATO insisting its airstrike killed soldiers and mercenaries, not 85 civilians, and Libya's state-run TV apparently showing Moammar Gadhafi's youngest son, Khamis Gadhafi, 27, alive to counter rebel allegations of his death. NATO aircraft hit a staging base and military accommodation 6 miles south of Zlitan, NATO spokesman Col. Roland Lavoie said from the operational command in Naples, Italy. Four buildings and nine vehicles within the compound were struck with precision-guided munitions, he said. Tunisia restarts trial for allies of Ben Ali: Attorneys representing 23 relatives and collaborators of Tunisia's ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali argued Wednesday that the legal proceedings against their clients were riddled with nullifying defects and urged judges to drop the charges. The 23 were facing charges including illegally possessing foreign currency, jewelry trafficking and attempting to flee the country on Jan. 14. If convicted, they could be sentenced to six months to five years in prison as well as hefty fines. The defendants included two sisters of Ben Ali's wife, Leila Trabelsi, and her nephew.