US announces economic sanctions to combat Syrian influence on Lebanon

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 US financial institutions. The action also prohibits any US 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.