US Recalls Ambassador from Syria Following Hariri Assassination

The Bush administration is recalling U.S. Ambassador Margaret Scobey from Damascus for urgent consultations, in a move the State Department says underlines the United States profound outrage over Monday's killing of Mr. Hariri, which it terms a heinous act of terrorism.

U.S. officials are not saying Damascus was responsible for the car-bomb assassination of Mr. Hariri, a businessman-turned-politician who was popular in Washington for his independence despite Syria's heavy influence in Lebanon.

But State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said the killing calls into question the rationale behind Syria's continued military presence in Lebanon, which is, nominally, to reinforce that country's security.

"The Syrian presence in Lebanon is not right," he said. "The Security Council has said repeatedly that they should withdraw, they should leave the Lebanese to run their own politics, to handle their own affairs. The only excuse for that presence has been that somehow it provided internal security for Lebanon. Unfortunately, the very tragic bombing yesterday shows that that's just plain not true."

Syria first sent troops into Lebanon under an Arab League mandate at the height of the country's civil war in the 1970s and still has about 14,000 troops there, despite an agreement in principle several years ago to withdraw.

Working with France, the United States was able to push a resolution through the U.N. Security Council last September calling for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon.

Officials here said that as she departed Damascus, Ambassador Scobey delivered a strongly-worded note to the Syrian Foreign Ministry making it clear that the United States expects that country to act in accordance with Security Council Resolution 15-59.

Spokesman Boucher said U.S. officials have also raised repeatedly with Syrian authorities concerns over a number of other issues, including what is seen here as Syrian support for the Iraqi insurgency, and for extremist groups opposing efforts to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

"We're looking to stop people operating from Syria in support of insurgents in Iraq," said Mr. Boucher. "We're looking to stop the flow of arms through Syria to groups that are violently opposed to the peace process, that are trying to kill the Palestinian leadership as well as the Israelis. We're looking to stop the interference in Lebanese politics that keeps the Lebanese from standing on their own two feet, in running their own country."

Mr. Boucher said the longer Syrian authorities go on without addressing U.S. concerns, the more likely it becomes that the Bush administration will examine additional punitive action against that country through such tools as the Syria Accountability Act approved by Congress in 2003.

President Bush invoked some of the sanctions provided for in that law last May including a ban on most U.S. exports to Syria, but other more serious economic and political penalties were deferred.

Spokesman Boucher did not say when Ambassador Scobey might return to Syria but said the recall was not a permanent down-grade of relations.

He announced that Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns will attend Mr. Hariri's funeral in Beirut as a gesture of respect for the former Prime Minister.

He said Mr. Burns would have courtesy meetings with Lebanese government leaders but was unaware of any plans for him to meet Syrian officials.

U.S. officials have not endorsed the call by French President Jacques Chirac for an international investigation of the Hariri assassination, saying they would first await results of a promised Lebanese inquiry.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle reports from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs