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Bush Freezes Assets of Those Trying to Destabilize Lebanon


The Bush administration is freezing the U.S. assets of people suspected of undermining the democratically elected government of Lebanon. VOA's Paula Wolfson has details from the White House.

President Bush ordered the Treasury Department to impose these new sanctions on anyone who poses a threat to the rule of law in Lebanon, or promotes Syrian interference in that country's affairs.

State Department Spokesman Tom Casey says the action is warranted.

"This comes out of our desire to make sure that we're doing what we can to support the forces of democracy in Lebanon, including Prime Minister Siniora and his government," he said.

The president's order does not identify who will be targeted by the sanctions. Casey says that responsibility lies with the Treasury Department.

"You'll note that the order was put out without an annex listing any individual names," he added. "That's something, though, that I know the Treasury Department is speaking to, and I suspect you'll see some designations under this order in a fairly short amount of time."

In June, President Bush barred entry to the United States by several Syrian and former Lebanese officials believed to pose a threat to Lebanon's democratic government.

He has also in recent weeks ordered the Treasury Department to freeze the U.S. assets of individuals and entities suspected of promoting violence or trying to subvert the political process in Iraq.

In the case of Iraq, the sanctions largely target people and businesses in Iran. Casey says the aim is the same: to reduce threats to legitimate democratic governments.

"Certainly, Iran and Syria are the principal sponsors, I would say, of both efforts to undermine the government in Lebanon and efforts to promote militia violence [and EFP networks] and the other things we've talked about in Iraq," he noted.

The United States has limited diplomatic ties with Syria because of its support for the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas. The U.S. has no formal ties with Iran. But recently, the American ambassador to Iraq met with his Iranian counterpart, a discussion limited to Iraqi security issues.

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