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Friday, August 18, 2006

US government blacklists pair of Syrian intelligence officials

The US Treasury has blacklisted two senior Syrian intelligence officials, accusing them of sponsoring terrorism and destabilizing Lebanon. The treasury named Major General Hisham Ikhtiyar, the former head of Syria's General Intelligence Directorate (GID), and Brigadier General Jamaa Jamaa, who used to command Syrian Military Intelligence (SMI) headquarters in Beirut.

"For decades, Syria has promoted instability and violence in the Middle East," said Pat O'Brien, the treasury's assistant secretary for terrorist financing. "Even after its withdrawal from Lebanon last year, Syria continues to choose destabilization and support for violence over peace in the region. Until Syria takes concrete steps to become a responsible member of the international community, the United States will make known rogue actors supporting the country's destabilizing agenda."

The United States has accused Syria, along with Iran, of sponsoring Hizbullah, whose capture of two Israeli soldiers sparked a month-long war that was halted this week by an UN-brokered cease-fire. In May, President George Bush extended a ban on US exports of certain items, including military equipment, to Syria and continued freezing the accounts of Syrians accused of supporting terror organizations.

Under an executive order, the US Treasury froze any US assets held by Ikhtiyar and Jamaa, and forbade Americans from any transactions with them. It said Ikhtiyar was head of the GID from December 2001 until June 2005, when he was promoted by President Bashar Assad to be director of Syria's National Security Bureau.

Ikhtiyar was blacklisted "for significantly contributing to the Syrian government's support for designated terrorist organizations," the treasury said. It cited Hizbullah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The treasury said that as the SMI chief in Beirut, Jamaa was "responsible for coordinating and implementing the Syrian government's policies in Lebanon." It accused him of acting for Rustom Ghazaleh, the overall head of the Syrian intelligence in Lebanon who was designated by the treasury a year ago for his "continued support for terrorism" and his contribution to Syria's presence in Lebanon. - AFP

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