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Bush Urges Syria to Remove Forces from Lebanon


President Bush says U.S. concerns about Syria will be a major topic of discussion during his upcoming trip to Europe.

Those concerns were heightened earlier this week when former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was killed in Beirut in a massive car bombing.

During a news conference, the president was asked once again if he believes Syria, which has about 14,000 troops in Lebanon, was responsible for the attack.

He said it is still too soon to say who was behind the murder of Mr. Hariri, who opposed the Syrian presence in Lebanon. But Mr. Bush went on to stress that the U.S. ambassador to Syria has been ordered home for consultations after delivering a stern message to Damascus.

"We've recalled our ambassador which indicates the relationship is not moving forward, that Syria is out of step with the progress being made in the greater Middle East, that democracy is on the move and this is a country that isn't moving with the democratic movement," Mr. Bush said.

The president said once again that Syria is harboring elements of the ousted Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein, supporting terrorist groups, and ignoring a U.N. resolution calling for the removal of foreign troops from Lebanon.

"These are very reasonable requests, the requests all aimed at making the world more peaceful," Mr. Bush said. "I look forward to working with our European friends on my upcoming trip to talk about how we can work together to convince the Syrians to make rational decisions."

As he was speaking, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was testifying at a hearing on Capitol Hill. During an appearance before a Senate committee, she said the administration continues to believe diplomacy is the best way to deal with Syria. But she went on to say the president has other options.

"We believe we have many, many diplomatic tools at our disposal here, and, although, the president always keeps his options open, we are employing those tools, and, I think, employing them very well," she said.

The bombing in Beirut and the subsequent deterioration of relations with Syria came at a sensitive time for U.S. policy in the Middle East. In Iraq, a transitional government is taking shape that will draft a new constitution. Meanwhile, Israeli and Palestinian leaders are talking about possible next steps in the peace process.

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