U.S. sanctions former Lebanese minister

Dec. 18, 2012 at 10:56 AM

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- A former Lebanese interior minister is considered a terrorist for supporting Syrian political interference in the country, the U.S. government said.

Syrian influence dominated affairs in Lebanon before Beirut gained more autonomy in the aftermath of its Cedar Revolution in 2005. A series of internal political skirmishes and kidnappings in Lebanon, however, have sparked concern the civil war in Syria could spill across the borders.

Former Lebanese Interior Minister Michel Samaha and Syrian Maj. Gen. Ali Mamlouk in August were charged in Lebanon with plotting to assassinate key political figures and launch terrorist attacks in the country. Samaha is in Lebanese custody.

The U.S. State Department listed Samaha as a specially designated global terrorist. The U.S. Treasury Department announced similar action, saying Samaha was "contributing to the breakdown of the rule of law in Lebanon, supporting the reassertion of Syrian control or otherwise contributing to Syrian interference in Lebanon, or infringing upon or undermining Lebanese sovereignty."

The State Department stated that it suspected Samaha worked to get explosives into Lebanon for potential attacks there. Hezbollah was sanctioned for its support of the Syrian regime by the State Department following Samaha's arrest in August.

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