Interview Al-Jazeera English: Rami Makhlouf rejects gov’t demand he step down from Syriatel

Syrian tycoon Rami Makhlouf said on Sunday that authorities set a deadline for him to resign from top mobile operator Syriatel or they would revoke its licence – but he promised not to step down. Makhlouf said the government was piling pressure on him and threatening to arrest him unless he handed over company profits. In a 16-minute Facebook video – the third he has issued publicising a rift with his cousin, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – Makhlouf said the collapse of Syriatel, a main revenue earner for the government, would deal a “catastrophic” blow to the economy. Makhlouf was part of the president’s inner circle and has played a big role in financing al-Assad’s war effort, Western officials say, citing his business empire that includes telecoms, real estate, construction and oil trading. Joseph Daher, a Swiss-Syrian academic at the European University Institute in Florence, talks to Al Jazeera.

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