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Friday, November 21, 2003

Congress passed Syria sanctions

AP/JPost: Congress has passed legislation to impose economic penalties against Syria, reflecting broad agreement among lawmakers that Syria has been a detriment to the fight against terrorism in the Middle East and Iraq.

President George W. Bush is expected to sign the bill even though he is not enthusiastic about such restraints on his foreign policy. The measure requires the president to act if Syria does not make significant steps to reverse its tolerance and support of anti-American forces.

The House on Thursday voted 408-8 in favor of a Senate-amended version of the legislation that, at the urging of the White House, gives the president greater leeway to waive the punishment on the basis of national security.

"The Syrian regime has the blood of Americans on their hands," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Administration officials agree, she said, that "Syria is on the wrong side of history and now it is time for it to suffer the consequences."

Syria has long been on the State Department's list, along with North Korea, Sudan, Cuba, Iran and Libya, of state sponsors of terrorism, but is the only country on that list to have full diplomatic relations with the United States.

Awarding normal relations to Syria never made any sense, said Rep. Eliot Engel, a lead sponsor of the bill. With the bill, he said, "we are saying to Syria that the time is up... we are not coddling you any more."