UNITED NATIONS - Sanctions imposed on Syria by the European Union, the United States and others over its 19-month conflict are "immoral and illegal" and harming Syrian children, the government wrote in a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released on Monday.

The letter from the Syrian government was in response to a recent report by Leila Zerrougui, Ban's special representative for children and armed conflict, who accused both sides in Syria of targeting children with bomb attacks, sexual violence and torture.

The Syrian government said the claims against it were "unsubstantiated and fraudulent" and relied on allegations by the media and opposition groups rather than facts. The government said sanctions were hurting the children.

"It is the children who are primarily adversely affected by those sanctions and the challenges they post to the various sectors and, in particular, the health sector," Syrian UN Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari wrote in the October 4 letter.

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