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US and Syrian Relations Worsen After the Assassination of Rafik Hariri

The United States has recalled its Ambassador to Syria in the wake of the assassination of Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. U.S. officials are not directly blaming Syria for the killing, but they are saying it calls into question the argument that keeping Syrian forces in Lebanon makes Lebanon more secure.

The U.S. recalled Ambassador Margaret Scobey from Damascus, for urgent consultations, following the Monday car bombing in Beirut, in which Mr. Hariri, and at least 14 others, were killed. While U.S. officials are not saying Damascus was behind the assassination, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters Tuesday the move underlines the United States' profound outrage over the killing of Mr. Hariri.

Richard Boucher, U.S. State Department spokesman said, "The Syrian presence in Lebanon has been something that's been disturbing to us for a long time. And as you know, we and the French have sponsored U.N. resolutions, we've made this an issue in our relationship again and again, and the horrible assassination that took place reminds us that this presence is not good, and that it has affected the situation and doesn't even provide what the rationale says, which is internal security for the Lebanese."

Mr. Boucher also said the U.S. is concerned about other actions Syria has taken, including supporting the Iraqi insurgency and extremists opposing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. He said Syria needs to address U.S. concerns or it could face sanctions.

At the United Nations Tuesday, the Security Council observed a minute of silence in honor of Mr. Hariri. Later, the Council issued a statement condemning the attack as a terrorist act and requested an urgent report on the assassination. The council also called for the implementation of a resolution passed last year, which demands Syria withdraw its troops from Lebanon.

In a related development, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Tuesday he has been informed that Russia is planning to sell anti-aircraft missiles to Syria. Mr. Sharon says he is not happy about that and his government is in contact with Russia, to try to resolve the issue.