CIA, State stalling on sanctions against Syria

Monday, May 3, 2004

The Bush administration has reiterated its pledge to impose U.S. sanctions on Syria.

U.S. officials said the sanctions would be imposed within the next two weeks. But they acknowledged that the administration, under pressure from the CIA and State Department, have postponed the imposition of sanctions several times over the last six weeks.

On Friday, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Syria has not responded to repeated U.S. appeals to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction, end the harboring of groups deemed as terrorist and withdraw troops from Lebanon. McClellan said the United States also has serious problems with Syria's inability to control its border with Iraq, Middle East Newsline reported.

"We have concerns about the situation in Lebanon when it comes to Syria," McClellan said. "And we certainly have concerns about Syria's continued development of weapons of mass destruction. We've expressed those concerns to Syria and we are moving forward on the Syria Accountability Act."

The Syria Accountability Act, passed in December 2003, authorized restrictions on the export of U.S. goods to Syria. Officials said most of the sanctions sought by the administration would be largely symbolic.

"We are going to continue to move forward on these sanctions," McClellan said. "Our goal is to make sure that we take steps that will lead to Syria changing its behavior."

Several leading members of the House and Senate have expressed dismay over the postponing of sanctions. They said Congress might consider legislation that would pressure the administration to launch specific and harsh sanctions on Damascus.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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