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U.S., Britain Apply Pressure on Syria - 2003-04-14


The Bush Administration is continuing to accuse Iraq’s neighbor, Syria, of hiding weapons of mass destruction and of giving safe-haven to senior members of Saddam Hussein’s ousted regime. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is now raising the possibility of sanctions against Damascus. Amy Katz has details.

Secretary Powell increased the pressure on Syria Monday, saying the U.S. is considering economic and diplomatic sanctions against Damascus if it does not cooperate.

Speaking to reporters outside the State Department, after meeting with the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister, Mr. Powell said he hopes Syria will “understand its obligations” in what he described as a “new situation” in the region.

“We believe, in light of this new environment, they should review their actions and their behavior, not only with respect to who gets haven in Syria and weapons of mass destruction, especially the support of terrorist activity.”

The statement came just a day after U.S. President George W. Bush said the U.S. believes there are chemical weapons in Syria and warned Damascus the U.S. is expecting its cooperation.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld also made similar statements Sunday.

Speaking on NBC Television’s Meet the Press Sunday, Syria’s Deputy Ambassador to the U.S., Imad Moustapha, said the accusations against his country are just a way for the U.S. to divert attention from what he called the “chaos and the lawlessness and the catastrophes that are taking place in Iraq.”

Britain has joined the U.S. in raising concerns about Syria and has been in talks with top Syrian officials to convince them to stop cooperating with Iraq.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Monday Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has promised to stop Iraqis from fleeing across the border into Syria. There was no immediate comment from Washington on that pledge.

Meanwhile, in Ankara Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul reacted to the U.S. warnings to Syria. He said the U.S.-led war against Iraq should remain within Iraq’s borders.

He made the remarks at a joint news conference with visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom. Israel has welcomed the stepped up pressure being put on Syria. Mr. Shalom repeated Israel’s accusations that Syria is harboring terrorists.