WASHINGTON, Aug 14 (Reuters) - The United States on Tuesday lifted financial sanctions against former Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab after his decision to leave Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.
The decision was announced by the Treasury Department, which said that Hijab would no longer be subject to U.S. sanctions against senior Syrian officials, including a freeze on any assets he held under U.S. jurisdiction.
At the State Department, officials said such a move by Washington did not have any bearing on what Syrians rebelling against Assad's government may eventually decide concerning the accountability of former officials of that government.
"This designation in the first place was part of our larger sanctions policy vis-a-vis Syria, which is designed to squeeze the regime individually, collectively, and dry up the money that it uses to perpetrate its crimes," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told a regular daily news briefing.
"So when you have individuals who have broken with the regime, they should no longer be subject to those sanctions ... This is not a judgment about his (Hijab's) accountability, which is something for the Syrian people to decide," Nuland said.
Hijab, a Sunni Muslim, was not in Assad's inner circle. But as the most senior civilian official to defect, his flight after two months in the job looked embarrassing for Assad.
He referred to Assad's government as an "enemy of God" on Tuesday in his first public appearance since defecting earlier this month. He also said Assad's government is falling apart and controls only 30 percent of the country.
Nearly 30 senior officials in Assad's government are on the U.S. Treasury's list of persons slapped with U.S. asset freezes, including Syria's new prime minister, Wael Al-Halqi.