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Syrians deny Lebanese ‘hit list’

DAMASCUS, Syria – Syrian officials denied accusations Friday by the Bush administration that Syrian intelligence agents are still operating in Lebanon and that they have a “hit list” of Lebanese politicians.

“All Syrian forces, whatever their role, have been withdrawn from Lebanon,” Information Minister Mehdi Dakhlallah told the official SANA news agency. “Syria has always worked with Lebanon in a transparent way without any covert action.”

After 29 years of military and political dominance over Lebanon, Syria withdrew 14,000 troops and hundreds of intelligence operatives from its smaller neighbor in April. The pullout came as Damascus faced intense international pressure to end its meddling in Lebanon, especially after the Feb. 14 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The Bush administration is “deeply concerned about Syria’s interference and intimidation inside Lebanon,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Friday. He refused to say whether U.S. officials have evidence of Syrian agents operating inside Lebanon or having a list of targets.