Secretary of State Colin Powell says the United States will be watching closely to see if Syria lives up to its promises to take action against terror groups. Mr. Powell spoke in a series of interviews on American television, one day after his return from a trip to Beirut and Damascus.
Secretary of State Powell says Syria knows what it has to do. He says he welcomes the assurances he got from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But at the same time, Mr. Powell stresses mere words are not enough.
"It is not what he says, or what he said to me, or what he professes," he said. "It is what he actually does. So, it is performance that we will be looking at in the days and weeks and months ahead."
Mr. Powell told NBC's Meet the Press that his talks in Damascus were "candid." He said President Assad is under no illusions, and knows exactly what the United States is looking for, an end to support for terrorism, and cooperation in rebuilding neighboring Iraq and capturing leaders of the ousted regime.
The secretary of state carried on that point in an appearance on the CBS news program Face the Nation. He said Mr. Assad is well aware a lack of action by Syria could result in some sort of penalties under U.S. law.
"He also knows there are consequences lurking in the background, whether it is the Syria Accountability Act that some members of Congress are considering, or triggering of the Patriot Act, which could have consequences for Syria," he said.
The trip to Syria and Lebanon marked the start of a new phase of intense personal U.S. diplomacy in the region. Before the week is out, Mr. Powell will return for talks with Israeli leader Ariel Sharon and the new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.
Just days ago, they were formally presented with a new peace plan devised by the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations. The so-called "roadmap" details a step-by-step process that could result in a Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace with Israel by the end of 2005.
The secretary of state told NBC television that both sides will have to make concessions, if there is to be progress toward peace. But he made clear nothing will happen until the Palestinian leadership ends violence directed at Israeli civilians.
"They have to get the violence under control," he said. "We cannot move forward with the roadmap, just as we have not been able to move forward with other plans and ideas, in the presence of continuing violence and terrorism."
Mr. Powell also stressed the Israelis will have to end settlement activity in the Palestinian territories. He said that may be one of the most difficult issues to resolve, along with the status of Jerusalem.