Sat, Aug 04, 2007 - Page 7 News List

US orders freeze to protect the Lebanese government

AFP , WASHINGTON

The US on Thursday announced a move to freeze US assets of anyone considered a threat to the Lebanese government, saying its sovereignty and democratic institutions "are increasingly under attack."

Those seen pushing to reassert Syrian control in Lebanon, and anyone judged contributing to the breakdown of the rule of law in the country were included in the freeze order.

"The president signed this executive order because Lebanon's sovereignty and democratic institutions are increasingly under attack," said US National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

As signs of threat, Johndroe cited recent assaults by "extremist" armed groups on the Lebanese army, the June 13 assassination of Judge Walid Eido, and reports that Syria's allies and proxies in Lebanon may be preparing an alternate government.

The executive order to freeze the assets, dated Aug. 1, said that threats against the Beirut government and moves to restore Syria's former dominant influence in Lebanon would "contribute to political and economic instability in [Lebanon] and the region, and constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States."

The order calls on the Treasury and State departments to determine which people or actors can be seen "undermining Lebanon's democratic processes or institutions, or contributing to the breakdown of the rule of law in Lebanon," or who are "supporting the reassertion of Syrian control or contributing to Syrian interference in Lebanon, or infringing upon or undermining Lebanese sovereignty."

The freeze order, made under the US International Emergency Economic Powers Act, extends not only to people seen as threatening Lebanese stability but also to their spouses and dependent children.

The international financial system will be informed of the identities of people officially identified as threats to Lebanon and US citizens will be prohibited from doing business with them.

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