BEIRUT – Former ministers who figure on a list of Syrian and Lebanese personalities banned from entering the United States said on Saturday they felt

Serving MP Assad Hardan, a former labour minister in Lebanon, reacted angrily against what he branded a ‘dictatorial’ decision taken by the US president who he accused of interfering in Lebanon.

‘Bush wants to prevent the exercise of democracy in Lebanon by targeting those who are not on his wavelength. It’s a decision which works against stability and civil peace,’ he charged.

‘It also targets the Lebanese people of whom I am an elected representative,’ said the MP, calling for Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, who has been on a European tour, to take action.

‘I call on Prime Minister Siniora to give a clear response to this decision which amounts to flagrant interference in the democratic process.’

The White House named several people already banned, including Syria’s head of military intelligence, an advisor to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and several members of Lebanon’s former pro-Damascus government.

It referred to the June 13 assassination of anti-Syrian Lebanese MP Walid Eido in a Beirut bomb blast.

The ban, in a formal presidential proclamation by Bush, includes immediate members of the men’s families, and people whose businesses benefited from their activities.

Wahhab said he plans to take legal action in Beirut ‘against those who took this decision … for defamation and interference in Lebanon’s domestic affairs.’

He served in the last pro-Syrian government which stepped down after the February 2005 assassination of ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri that was widely blamed on Damascus despite its repeated denials.

He has called for the formation of a new government, dismissing the Western-backed Siniora cabinet as ‘illegitimate’ since the resignation of six pro-Syrian ministers last November.

Former deputy Nasser Kandil told reporters that the move ‘proves the government is being manipulated by the United States. The Lebanon conflict is between those who serve US interests and those defending the interests of Lebanon.’

Kandil was questioned by a UN commission investigating the Hariri killing.

The owner of As-Safir newspaper, Talal Salman, who is not on the list, warned that the US decision amounted to ‘a poisoned gift’ to Siniora and would only deepen the chasm between the pro- and anti-Syrian camps in Lebanon.

Among other former ministers in Lebanon on the US list is ex-information minister Michel Samaha, who declined to give a reaction on Saturday.