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US Slams Syria Over Terrorism

The United States has ratcheted up its pressure on Syria, demanding a Syrian pullout from Lebanon and the dismantling of terrorist camps in the southern part of that country.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has spoken out sharply about Syrian interference in the Middle East against a U.S.-backed movement to spread democracy through the region.

At the end of a London conference on Palestinian reforms, Secretary Rice was asked what steps the United States could take to get Syria out of Lebanon. She called on Syria to comply with a U.N. Security Council resolution and withdraw its forces from Lebanon.

"The first task is impressing upon the Syrians the importance of complying with Resolution 15-59 which requires that Syrian forces withdraw, and I want to be very clear, we mean Syrian military forces and their security services," said Ms. Rice.

Earlier this week, Syria said it planned to redeploy its troops in Lebanon. Washington had welcomed the Syrian announcement, but said the withdrawal should be immediate and all troops should be pulled out.

Ms. Rice also said Syria should dismantle terrorist camps in southern Lebanon as part of any withdrawal.

"We expect that the dismantling of terrorist activities would have to be an important part of anything moving forward," she added. "There can't continue to be terrorist strikes against Israel or anyone else from southern Lebanon and that message has also been very clear to the Syrians."

She accused Damascus of backing terrorists who are active against Israel, Iraq and the Palestinian Authority under newly elected President Mahmoud Abbas.

In a separate interview with an American television network ABC, Ms. Rice said there is firm evidence that the Syrian-based group Islamic Jihad carried out a suicide bombing Friday in Tel Aviv, an attack that cast a shadow over the London conference.

Earlier in the day, Ms. Rice said the United States is prepared to offer material support to Lebanon for free and fair elections to replace a pro-Syrian government that has just resigned. She said Syria must stop meddling in Lebanon's politics.