[R-G] Renewed US sanctions threat angers Syria
menecraj at shaw.ca
Mon Mar 15 15:19:54 MST 2004
Renewed US sanctions threat angers Syria
By News Report
Mar 13, 2004, 12:17
March 12-13, 2004-
Syria responded indignantly on Thursday to US plans to impose
new sanctions for what Washington views as its support for terrorism.
"This law is arbitrary and has no justification," Deputy Foreign
Minister Isa Darwish told Reuters in an interview.
US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William
Burns said on Wednesday Washington would soon adopt a "very
firm implementation" of the Syria Accountability Act signed by
President George W. Bush in December.
"This law was passed to satisfy Israel because all its content
represents Israeli demands, especially regarding the Syrian presence
in Lebanon and Hizbollah," Darwish said.
Burns did not say which of a range of possible sanctions Bush
would choose under the legislation, which already bars trade in
items that could be used in banned weapons programmes.
It also asks Bush to impose at least two other sanctions from a
menu that includes barring US investments in Syria, restricting
travel in the United States by Syrian diplomats, and banning US
exports to Syria other than food and medicine.
The law presses Syria to scrap any weapons of mass destruction it
might have, stop backing anti-Israeli Palestinian and Lebanese
fighters, withdraw its forces from Lebanon and prevent anti-US
fighters from crossing its border into Iraq.
Darwish rejected all US criticism on these issues, but reiterated that
Syria was ready to discuss them with Washington.
Dialogue, not sanctions
"We are not against US interests in the region but we want the United
States to understand Syria's interests and rights and those of Arabs as
well," he said. "We want open dialogue to replace sanctions, one
based on joint interests and respect."
Darwish said Syria's border with Iraq was under control and there was
no sign that attacks on US troops there had been the work of infiltrators
crossing from Syrian territory.
Officials in Iraq's interim government have accused adjacent countries,
including Syria, of not doing enough to stop an influx of foreign fighters
opposed to the US-led occupation.
Darwish said Syria's military presence in Lebanon was by the consent
of a sovereign Beirut government. He described Hizbollah as an
integral part of Lebanon's political system, which had confined its
military action to occupied Lebanese soil.
Syria, the main powerbroker in Lebanon, has had troops there for
nearly three decades, but has been reducing their numbers, especially
since President Bashar Assad took office in 2000.
Darwish said Palestinian militant groups had the right to express their
cause in a country that hosts half a million Palestinian refugees, but said
they had closed their "media" offices in Damascus and conducted no
other activity in Syria.
He said no attack on Israel had been launched from Syrian territory
since the 1973 Middle East war and it was unreasonable to expect
Syria to quell the activity of Palestinian groups based in the
Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Darwish said Syria remained ready to resume peace talks with Israel
at the point where they collapsed in 2000 over the return of the Golan
Heights, and endorses an Arab plan offering Israel peace if it quits all
land occupied since 1967 war and accepts Palestinian statehood and
a just solution for refugees.
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