US planning 'firm' sanctions on Syria

The Bush administration will act soon to impose firm sanctions against Syria which it accuses of sponsoring terrorism, according to a US State Department official.

    Burns (R) says Syria has made no attempt to "reform"

    William Burns, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, confirmed the move to a committee in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

    He said: 

    "I think you'll see the implementation very shortly, and I

    think it will be a very firm implementation of the Syrian

    Accountability Act and the intent behind it."

    Lawmakers have pressured President George Bush since November

    to impose penalties on Syria, which Washington also accuses of occupying

    Lebanon and failing to secure

    its border with Iraq while allowing anti-American fighters to

    make their way there.

    Anti-Syria legislation

    US anti-Syria legislation has barred trade in items that could be used in

    weapons programmes until the administration certifies Syria

    is not supporting "terrorist" groups, has withdrawn personnel

    from Lebanon, is not developing weapons of mass destruction, and

    has secured its border with Iraq.

    The legislation also includes barring US businesses from investing in Syria,

    restricting travel in the United States by Syrian diplomats,

    and banning exports of US products other than food and

    medicine to Syria.

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
    says US accusations are untrue 

    A senior administration official said it was "probably

    accurate" that a decision on the sanctions was imminent.

    But he

    said: "We don't know when or what they will be."

    The official said what type of sanctions will be imposed

    was "being evaluated by the administration as we speak".

    American accusations

    Burns was testifying to the House International Relations

    Committee on developments in Libya, which has renounced

    "terrorism" and is cooperating to dismantle its own weapons of

    mass destruction programme.

    Asked if he has seen any similar moves in Syria, Burns

    said, "No sir".

    Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has repeatedly accused

    Syria and Iran of allowing "terrorists" to cross their borders

    into neighboring Iraq, and suggested during a visit to Iraq

    last month that it might be time for Washington to increase

    diplomatic and financial pressure on Damascus and Tehran.

    Rumsfeld also says Syria and Iran have conspired to aid the

    movement of Hizb Allah fighters and arms through Lebanon to

    launch attacks against Israel.

    Both Syria and Iran deny the charges and say they are politically-motivated.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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