Thursday, August 02, 2007

Bush freezes assets of those tied to Lebanon violence

Bush freezes assets of those tied to Lebanon violence

President George W. Bush on Thursday ordered a freeze on U.S. assets of those whom Washington accuses of undermining the Lebanese government. Bush did not identify those affected by the decree, but he imposed a U.S. travel ban in June on Syrian officials and Lebanese politicians whom Washington accuses of fomenting instability in Lebanon. He said in a letter to the U.S. Congress that the latest measures target anyone fueling violence against the elected government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora or contributing to what he called "Syrian interference" in the country.

The U.S. move followed repeated calls for Damascus to stop meddling in Lebanon, where Washington is trying to shore up Siniora's embattled administration. Bush has sought to isolate Syria diplomatically. He accuses Damascus of sponsoring terrorism, not doing enough to prevent foreign fighters from crossing into Iraq and doing little to rein in Hamas and Hezbollah militants opposed to Israel. Damascus, which withdrew its forces from Lebanon in 2005 after a 29-year military presence, has denied the accusations.

"The president signed this executive order because Lebanon's sovereignty and democratic institutions are increasingly under attack," said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the White House National Security Council. The United States backed a May U.N. Security Council resolution setting up an international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, who was killed in 2005. Syria has been accused of complicity, a charge it denies.

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