Rami Makhlouf, President Assad's cousin and a business tycoon depicted as synonymous with Syrian corruption, announced on state TV that he was quitting.
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Rami Makhlouf, Syrian business tycoon and cousin to President Bashar al-Assad, says he is quitting business and putting his profits into charity. The move that was announced on state television is being billed as a concession to one of protesters' many demands for reform, although they said his departure alone is not enough.
Mr. Makhlouf holds unrivaled economic clout in Syria. He controls the country's main cellphone company as well as a bank, airline, and construction company (among others). He has been under US sanctions since 2007 for public corruption and was recently placed under EU sanctions.
The New York Times notes that Makhlouf has long been reviled for his business dealings and has become a "lightning rod" in the Assad regime during the uprising – offices of his cell phone company have been burned in the protests and his name has been shouted by demonstrators. He is "synonymous with the excesses of the Syrian leadership" for many Syrians.
As a member of Mr. Assad's inner circle, his resignation is a milestone in the uprising – it is the first time a "pillar" of the regime has been forced out. Such a concession would be noteworthy anywhere, but it is particularly significant with Assad's regime because of the tight ties holding the country's elite together, the Times reports.
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