The US House of Representatives blames its near unanimous decision to sanction Syria on the country's alleged ties to armed groups and purported efforts to obtain nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. 

 

The legislation, the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Act, also calls on Damascus to end its occupation of Lebanon.

  

United States president, George Bush, last week ended two years of opposition to the legislation, and has indicated he will sign it.

  

Options

 

The legislation gives the White House a range of options for sanctioning Syria, from restricting US exports and business investment to downgrading Washington's diplomatic representation and imposing travel restrictions on Syrian diplomats in the US.

  

"I think that this bill is crucial to the ongoing war on terror," said House majority leader, Tom DeLay, at a press briefing on Wednesday.

 

"Syria has evidently chosen to side with the terrorists in this war and it's time for the government to start feeling the consequences of their actions," DeLay said.

 

"Terrorist states will not be tolerated," the Texas Republican said, adding "Congress has a responsibility to make Syria understand the recklessness of its actions."

  

Before reaching the president's desk, the measure must first be approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and then by the full Senate, which is expected in the coming weeks.

  

The vote comes as relations between Damascus and Washington have soured in recent months over Syria's alleged ties with armed groups, weapons programmes, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the US occupation of Iraq.