UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council is set to blacklist Syria’s Islamist al-Nusra Front on Friday as an alias of al Qaeda in Iraq, a move that will subject the group to sanctions including an arms embargo, travel ban and assets freeze, diplomats said.
It’s unlikely members of the Security Council’s al Qaeda sanctions committee will object to the proposal submitted by Britain and France, diplomats said on condition of anonymity. All 15-members of the sanctions committee must agree for Nusra to be listed.
Nusra, one of the most effective forces fighting President Bashar al-Assad, last month pledged allegiance to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri. The U.S. State Department designated Nusra as a terrorist organization in December.
Experts have long said Nusra is receiving support from al Qaeda-linked militants in neighboring Iraq. The group claimed responsibility for deadly bombings in Damascus and Aleppo, and its fighters have joined other Syrian rebel brigades.
Syria had initially asked for Nusra to be designated a new terrorist group, but Britain and France countered with a proposal to instead list it as an alias of al Qaeda because there were concerns about the Syrian evidence supporting its request, said diplomats, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
“There was quite a lot of suggestions that the information they got was from interrogation, which means torture in Syria,” said a senior diplomat.
Either way the group was listed, it would still have been subjected to the same sanctions.
Videos of executions and torture by both sides to the conflict have become increasingly common in Syria.
Syria’s conflict started more than two years ago with mainly peaceful demonstrations against Assad, but descended into a civil war in which the United Nations says at least 80,000 people have been killed.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition monitoring group, said that more than 94,000 people have been killed.
Islamist militants have emerged as the most potent of the anti-Assad rebel groups.
The Islamist element of the Syrian conflict poses a quandary for Western powers and their Arab allies, which favor Assad’s overthrow but are alarmed at the growing power of militant Sunni Muslim fighters whose fiercely anti-Shi’ite ideology has fueled sectarian tensions in the Middle East.
Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Philip Barbara