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U.S. Sanctions Syrian Official

The U.S. Treasury Department has designated Assef Shawkat, director of Syrian military intelligence, as a supporter of terrorism. Under a 2004 executive order, the Treasury Department can block property, including bank accounts, of persons complicit in the Syrian government's support for terrorism, interference inside Lebanon, pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, and efforts to undermine the advance of freedom and peace in Iraq.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan says that Mr. Shawkat has worked with terrorist organizations based in Syria, including Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hamas:

"Mr. Shawkat, as Syria's chief of military intelligence, has directly contributed to Syria's support for terrorism, including the insurgency in Iraq, Palestinian terrorist groups given shelter in Damascus, and Hezbollah and other terrorist groups in Lebanon. Mr. Shawkat has also been deeply involved in Syria's ongoing interference in the destabilization of Lebanon."

According to the U.S. Treasury Department, Mr. Shawkat has contributed significantly to the Syrian government's illegal security presence in Lebanon through his oversight of Syrian military intelligence activities inside Lebanon and direct control over Brigadier General Rustum Ghazali, who commanded Syrian military intelligence activities in Lebanon. The United States earlier designated both Mr. Ghazali and Syrian Interior Minister Ghazi Kanaan as having been complicit in the Syrian government's subversive activities.

The Syrian government continues to obstruct a United Nations investigation into the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. In two interim reports, U-N investigators said high-ranking Syrian officials, along with some senior Lebanese intelligence officers, may have been involved in the assassination.

"We remain deeply concerned about Syria's destabilizing behavior in the Middle East and its continued support for terrorism," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. "We are seeing democracy take firm root in Lebanon, Iraq, the Palestinian Territories, and elsewhere in the region. Syria continues to be out of step with the direction the rest of the Middle East is headed."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.