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'No War Plan for Syria,' says Powell - 2003-04-15

Secretary of State Colin Powell moved Tuesday to ease concerns in the Middle East that the Bush administration might be contemplating military action against other countries following the campaign in Iraq. Mr. Powell said the United States has concerns about the policies of Syria and Iran, but said there is no U.S. list, or war plan, to attack other countries.

In a session with foreign journalists in Washington, Mr. Powell reiterated charges that Syria may have given safe haven to senior officials of the former Iraqi government, and also said the United States has concerns about some Iranian policies.

But under questioning, he described the circumstances that led to the decision to act against the Saddam Hussein regime as a "unique case." And he flatly rejected the idea that the Bush administration has a plan to spread U.S. values in the Middle East or elsewhere at the point of a gun.

"We have concerns about Syria. We have let Syria know of our concerns. We also have concerns about some of the policies of Iran. We have made the Iranians fully aware of our concerns. But there is no list. There is no war plan right now to go attack someone else, either for the purpose of overthrowing their leadership or for the purpose of imposing democratic values. Democratic values have to ultimately come within a society and within a nation," Mr. Powell said.

Syria has rejected charges leveled by top administration officials, including President Bush, in recent days that it may be sheltering Iraqi fugitives and developing chemical weapons. But in his talk with reporters, Mr. Powell repeated the safe-haven allegation and said the United States has raised the issue "rather directly and forcefully" with Syrian authorities.

"We don't believe Syria should find this in their interest to give refuge, to give haven, to these sorts of individuals who should be returned to Iraq to face the justice that will be meted out by the Iraqi people. And we will make these points to Syria strongly. We hope that Syria understands now that there is a new environment in the region, with the end of the regime of Saddam Hussein, and that Syria will reconsider its policies of past years, and understand that there are better choices it can make than the choices it has made in the past," he said.

Mr. Powell on Monday raised the possibility of U.S. diplomatic or economic sanctions against Syria. But he also said the Bush administration would like to include Syria in the Middle East peace efforts it intends to accelerate shortly with the release of the so-called "roadmap" to an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.