Report: U.S. wooing rogue states in war on Al Qaida

Thursday, January 8, 2004

WASHINGTON The Bush administration has launched a policy of persuading countries deemed as terrorist sponsors to join the war against Al Qaida.

A congressional report said the administration has targeted at least three countries for an effort to expand Arab cooperation against Al Qaida. The report by the Congressional Research Service cited Libya, Sudan and Syria as having been wooed by Washington since the Al Qaida suicide attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001.

"The Bush administration clearly is exploring the possibility of enlisting state sponsors of terrorism, such as Libya, Sudan, and recently more intensively Syria, in a broader Islamic coalition against Al Qaida and its followers," the report, entitled "Terrorism and National Security: Issues and Trends," said. "The United States also has held discussions with Iran concerning formation of a post-Taliban coalition government in Afghanistan."

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The United States has imposed sanctions on the seven countries that comprise the State Department list of terror sponsors, Middle East Newsline reported. The sanctions include a ban on U.S. economic and military assistance, a ban on export of munitions and dual use equipment such as aircraft and trucks. The report cited opposition to the administration's policy of trying to reconcile with terrorist sponsors.

"To some critics, though, such initiatives detract from the imperative of taking a principled stand against international terrorism in all its guises," the report said.

Congressional sources said the State Department has prepared for the removal of Sudan from the U.S. list of terrorist sponsors. The sources said the move comes in wake of an agreement by Khartoum with the rebel Sudanese People's Liberation Army for a military power-sharing arrangement in war-torn southern Sudan.

Authored by analyst Raphael Perl, the report, issued in late 2003, said Sudan appears closest to being removed from the State Department list of terrorist sponsors. The report said a U.S. effort to remove Syria from the list appeared to have failed when Damascus refused to expel representatives of groups deemed as terrorist.

"Though not formally detected in an active role since 1986, the Assad regime reportedly uses groups in Syria and Lebanon to project power into Israel and allows groups to train in territory under its control," the report said.

The report said both Libya and Sudan have offered to share intelligence information on Al Qaida with U.S. authorities. For its part, Syria has promised to clamp down on insurgency groups on its territory and reduce overall support for groups deemed as terrorist.

The future status of the seven countries on the State Department list of terrorist sponsors might not be linked to their support of insurgency groups, the report said. The report said other issues, such as weapons of mass destruction, have also influenced the decision of the State Department.

"Presence of a country on the 'terrorism list,' though, may reflect considerations such as its pursuit of WMD or its human rights record or U.S. domestic political considerations that are largely unrelated to support for international terrorism," the report said.

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