Monday, March 01, 2004

Syria accountability act

President Bush is still "debating what penalties — if any — to apply to" Syria.

More than 2½ months after President Bush signed a bill permitting sanctions against Syria for its support of terrorist groups, administration officials still are debating what penalties — if any — to apply to the Arab nation.

There is growing pressure from Congress for a tough stand from the administration, with Republicans and Democrats imploring Mr. Bush not to waive the sanctions. The Bush administration had insisted on having the option of a waiver as a condition for supporting the bill.

A waiver "would send the wrong signal" to Syrian President Bashar Assad and the "terrorists who find safe haven within Syria's borders," Sens. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, and Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, said in a recent letter to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

But some U.S. officials have been concerned that sanctions could worsen ties with Syria, which has cooperated with the United States in the fight against Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network.


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