Three Palestinian insurgency
groups on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations remain active in Syria.
On Saturday, the United States reported that Syria had closed the
offices of at least three Palestinian insurgency groups that appear on the
State Department's list of terrorist organizations. They were identified as
Hamas, Jihad and the PFLP-GC.
"They did some closures," U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said
after meeting Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus.
However, Western diplomatic sources said Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular
Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command are operating as usual in
Damascus. They said other groups on the State Department list of terrorist
organizations were also open over the weekend.
"Nothing has changed," a Western diplomat who monitors insurgency groups
in Damascus said. "There has been some activities that moved from one office
"There was some warning to the three groups to lower their profile
during the Powell visit," another diplomatic source said. "Other than that,
nobody that I know has seen anything different."
During his three-hour meeting with Assad, Powell relayed a message from President
George Bush that urged Assad to
begin a new chapter in U.S.-Syrian relations after the fall of the regime of
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Assad was Saddam's leading ally and Syria
helped transport hundreds of millions of dollars worth of weapons and
equipment for the war in Iraq.
"We want to cooperate with Syria in adapting to that strategic
situation," he said. "We'll be watching very carefully."
U.S. officials also said Syria has been steadily removing troops from
Lebanon. They said Syria has reduced its military presence in Lebanon from
30,000 to 15,000 soldiers over the last 18 months.
In Washington, a U.S. official who monitors Syria said Hamas, Jihad and
the PFLP-GC confirmed that the organizations continue to operate in the Syrian capital. The official said
some of the offices appeared to be closed for renovations.
"The organizations are still operating," the official said. "They
continue to train and receive weapons and funding from Iran."
Representatives of several Palestinian groups also said they were
continuing as usual. They said Syria had not asked them to suspend