Syria vows to retaliate against expanded U.S. sanctions

By Xinhua

Damascus : Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said Thursday Damascus would respond to the financial sanctions announced by Washington against senior Syrian officials.

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“This is not the first time the United States has taken measures against Syria. But this time we will impose our own sanctions on the United States,” Muallem told a joint news conference with visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

He didn’t elaborate on the measures to be taken against the United States, which has decided to freeze U.S. assets of those believed responsible for actions that “undermine efforts to stabilize Iraq.”

Referring to the Israeli attacks on Hezbollah forces in 2006, Muallem said “dozens of Syrians who became victims in the Israeli aggression against Lebanon will start proceedings against the United States as Israel used American arms” against them.

U.S. President George W. Bush Wednesday announced measures to freeze the U.S. assets of the senior Syrian officials and their associates.

“I wish to emphasize, as well, my ongoing concern over the destabilizing role Syria continues to play in Lebanon, including its efforts to obstruct, through intimidation and violence, Lebanon’s democratic processes,” Bush said.

The U.S. Treasury Department in November imposed sanctions on four Syrian officials who it said were linked to Syrian efforts to undermine Lebanon’s sovereignty.

U.S. National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in a statement that the Bush administration would soon have a list of officials targeted under the order.

Syria has been under unilateral U.S. economic sanctions since 2004 for allegations that it supports terrorist organizations, mainly the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which Damascus insists as legitimate groups.