The Washington Post reports:
The Bush administration charged yesterday that Syria has launched a campaign to politically and economically strangle Lebanon. The White House said Damascus is now blocking attempts by Beirut’s new prime minister to form a government, while also threatening the livelihood of tens of thousands of Lebanese by closing the border to regional commerce.
U.S. and European officials alleged yesterday that President Bashar Assad’s government now appears to be using new tools in an attempt to control the Lebanese because its ability to use military intimidation diminished after Syria was forced to withdraw 14,000 troops from Lebanon in April under international pressure.
Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustafa vehemently denied that Syria is playing any role in Lebanon, an accusation he described as “ridiculous” and said “does not merit a comment.”
“Not a single Lebanese has complained that Syria is interfering in what is going on in the Lebanese political scene,” he added. “The United States is the one that is interfering.”
Perhaps he should speak to some of the mourners at last month’s funeral for George Hawi.
Border traffic has slowed because Damascus has introduced new border security measures, as it has along the Iraq border, he added…
But a State Department official yesterday countered: “It’s not a question of a slowdown, inspecting and new measures that slow movement. This is a roadblock,” he said speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive diplomacy underway.
Syria also has taken some unusual steps to hurt Lebanon’s economy, the State Department official said. A Lebanese mineral water company was banned from exporting to or through Syria because its metal bottle caps have six points, which resemble the six-pointed Star of David on the Israeli flag, and the water distributor in Syria has been jailed, he said.