United States slaps sanctions on Syria
* Syria accuses Israeli lobby in US, wants talks
WASHINGTON: US President George W Bush signed legislation Friday that aims to punish Syria for alleged ties to terrorists, tacit support for insurgents in Iraq, and efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction.
“Today, I have signed into law HR 1828, the ‘Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003,’” Bush said in a statement released by the White House. The bill demands that Syria end support for terrorism; halt the development of chemical and biological arms as well as medium- and long-range missiles; and withdraw the roughly 20,000 troops it has deployed in Lebanon. It also calls on the governments of Lebanon and Syria to “enter into serious unconditional bilateral negotiations” with Israel in order to secure “a full and permanent peace.” And it says Syria must close its borders to any military equipment and anti-US militants bound for Iraq, where US-led forces have weathered deadly attacks since ousting Saddam Hussein in April.
The legislation directs the president to prohibit US exports to Syria of weaponry and so-called “dual-use” technology with both civilian and military applications and to pick two from a range of sanctions.
They include restricting US exports and business investment, downgrading US-Syrian diplomatic ties, imposing travel restrictions on Syrian diplomats in the United States, freezing Syria’s assets in the United States, and restricting overflight rights for Syrian aircraft inside US airspace. Bush’s statement included traditional language indicating he construed the law’s requirements as tools, not directives limiting the White House’s historical prerogatives in shaping foreign policy.
“My approval of the Act does not constitute my adoption of the various statements of policy in the Act as US foreign policy,” Bush added. The measure cleared both chambers of the US Congress by overwhelming margins, and Bush ended two years of quiet opposition to the measure in early October after lawmakers granted him the power to waive the sanctions. Syria said Saturday that US sanctions on the country was the work of Israel’s friends in Congress. “The partisans of Israel in the American Congress worked actively for the adoption of this law,” the official SANA news agency said. Syria said it wanted a frank and constructive dialogue with the United States. The official news agency said President Bashar al-Assad’s talked with a US Homeland Security Committee delegation led by California Republican Christopher Cox dealt with combating terrorism and the Arab-Israeli peace process. —Agencies