The U.S. House of Representatives has given final approval to new sanctions against Syria and sent the bill to President Bush for his signature. The measure aims to press Damascus to end what the United States says is its support for terrorism and its efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
The measure tightens diplomatic and economic sanctions against Syria until the U.S. government certifies that Damascus has stopped providing support for terrorism, ended its military occupation of Lebanon, ceased efforts to produce or acquire weapons of mass destruction, and stopped terrorists and weapons from entering Iraq.
The measure would ban U.S. trade with Syria in items that could be used in weapons programs. Among the sanctions the president could impose are reducing diplomatic contacts, freezing Syrian assets, barring U.S. businesses from investing in Syria, restricting travel in the United States by Syrian diplomats, and banning exports of U.S. products other than food and medicine to Syria.
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, is a chief sponsor of the measure.
"I would like my colleagues to reflect on the suffering of the Syrian and Lebanese people today, and on the lives and the sacrifice of American, Israeli, and so many other victims of terrorist attacks supported by, or facilitated by, the Syrian regime. This bill is also for them," he said.
The House first passed the measure last month, and voted again Thursday to approve a change made by the Senate to give the president more power to waive sanctions if he believes they are not in U.S. national security interests.
Congressman Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat, warned President Bush the Congress would closely scrutinize any decision to waive the provisions.
"Let me just say that if Syria is still supporting terrorism, occupying Lebanon, procuring weapons of mass destruction, and permitting guerrillas to enter into Iraq to attack and kill our troops, I want to say to the White House that any waiver would have to outweigh those most dangerous transgressions," he said.
Syria is on the U.S. State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism, the only nation on that list to have full diplomatic relations with the United States.