The US has frozen the financial assets of Syria’s interior minister and its head of intelligence for Lebanon, saying they aided terrorism in Lebanon.
Washington also said Americans were now forbidden from doing business with Interior Minister Ghazi Kanaan and intelligence chief Rustam Ghazali.
Washington says both men played a leading role in directing Syria’s military presence in Lebanon.
Syria withdrew its troops from Lebanon in May, ending a 29-year occupation.
The pull-out came after mass protests by Lebanese people and international pressure sparked by the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February.
Elections held after the withdrawal were won by an anti-Syrian opposition, led by Mr Hariri’s son Saad.
In May US President George W Bush extended the economic sanctions imposed on Syria last year for a further year.
Before becoming interior minister Mr Kanaan was Syria’s military intelligence chief for Lebanon.
The US Treasury Department alleges that during that time he made certain that Syrian military intelligence officers played an active role Lebanese politics and supported Hezbollah.
“In 2002, three rockets in a convoy allegedly escorted by Kanaan were personally delivered across the Syrian-Lebanese border to Hezbollah in Lebanon,” the department said in a statement.
‘US diversionary tactic’
When Mr Ghazali took over as Syria’s head of military intelligence for Lebanon he “manipulated Lebanese politics to ensure that Lebanese officials and public policy remained committed” to Syria’s interests, the US statement also claimed.
Mr Ghazali made it known that Syria “was determined to physically harm anyone who interfered with Lebanon’s economic situation and caused a crisis of confidence,” the statement said.
Syria’s official news agency, SANA, quoted a government spokesman as saying that the move was part of a US attempt to increase pressure on Syria in order to draw attention away from recent fighting between Israeli forces and Hezbollah guerrillas on Lebanon’s southern border.
On Thursday Israeli forces said they had opened fire on two Hezbollah guerrillas who infiltrated northern Israel from Lebanese territory.
Hezbollah confirmed Israeli troops had fired in the border area but said its fighters “did not respond”.
The clashes occurred near the Shebaa Farms which lie at the convergence of Israeli, Lebanese and Syrian territory.
The area was captured by Israel from Syria in 1967 but the area is now claimed by Lebanon, with Syrian backing.
The United Nations has ruled that the area belongs to Syria and says its fate is linked to the occupied Golan Heights – which is subject to separate UN resolutions telling Israel to leave.