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Syria has acknowledged that its banks have held funds for Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, reports Geostrategy-Direct, the global intelligence news service

But the regime of President Bashar Assad disputes U.S. officials who say Syria was harboring about $3 billion in Saddam funds.

Instead, Syria maintains that its Iraqi assets have not exceeded $300 million.

The Assad regime has frozen funds from the former Iraqi government, officials said. Dureid Dirgham, director of the Syrian Commercial Bank, said the Iraqi government deposited $216 million in the financial institution.

“No former Iraqi officials have private accounts in this bank,” Dirgham was quoted by the official Syrian News Agency as saying.

Officials said the remaining funds have been deposited in other Syrian state-owned banks. They did not elaborate.

The Bush administration has threatened to impose sanctions on the Syrian Commercial Bank that would ban activities or contacts in the United States.

The bank ? with a subsidiary in Lebanon and correspondent accounts with several U.S. banks ? was said to have harbored up to $1 billion in Saddam funds and assets.

“Returning the funds is a natural right of the Iraqi side,” Dirgham said. “But there are contracts concluded with Iraq before the war that first need to be settled.”

The administration has also been examining a proposal to impose sanctions on Lebanese politicians who support the Syrian occupation. On Oct. 16, the Lebanese government issued a statement that warned against the proposal.

“Prime Minister Rafik Hariri summoned U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman today to express concern and opposition to a request by members of Congress to U.S. President Bush to freeze assets of Lebanese and Syrian officials to pressure Lebanon and Syria,” the office of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri said in a statement.



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