WASHINGTON – The Bush administration, trying to combat Syrian attempts to reassert control over Lebanon's political system, said Monday it was imposing economic sanctions against four people.
The Treasury Department announced that it was freezing any assets the four individuals might have in U.S. financial institutions. The action also prohibits any U.S. citizen from engaging in transactions with the four.
"Syria has used all means at its disposal — from bribery to intimidation to violence — to undermine the legitimate political process in Lebanon," Treasury Undersecretary Stuart Levey said in announcing the sanctions. "Today's action exposes four individuals involved in such activities and serves as a warning to others who would do likewise."
Treasury identified two of the people as Assaad Halim Hardan, a member of Lebanon's parliament and chief of the Syrian Socialist National Party central political bureau, and Wi'am Wahhab, a former member of Lebanon's parliament. Treasury said both men work with senior Syrian officials to undermine Lebanese sovereignty.
The Treasury Department also sanctioned Hafiz Makhluf, a colonel and senior official in the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate and a cousin of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Muhammad Nasif Khayrbik, identified as a close adviser to Assad.
Syrian troops formally withdrew from Lebanon in April 2005 after a 29-year military presence. Treasury said in its announcement that the Syrian government is working through Lebanese proxies to exert control over the Lebanese political system and weaken the pro-government coalition in Lebanon.
The Treasury statement said Syria's efforts include bribing politicians, intimidation, support for violence and providing arms to militias and terrorist groups.
The sanctions announced Monday were imposed under two executive orders signed by President Bush in May 2004 and this past August.