U.S. blames its problems on…Syria this time


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Rice evokes possible new sanctions against Syria
Tue Sep 26, 3:54 AM ET

The United States is hoping to convince its allies to back new sanctions against
Syria in response to its purported role in destabilizing Lebanon and Iraq and 
supporting the radical Palestinian movement Hamas, US Secretary of State 
Condoleezza Rice said.

"We're going to have to look at tougher measures if Syria continues to be on the
path that it's on," Rice told The Wall Street Journal in an interview, the 
transcript of which was released Monday by the State Department.

The United States has accused Syria of backing anti-US insurgents in Iraq and of
involvement in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik 

It also says Syrian support for the radical Islamic militia Hezbollah in Lebanon
was a factor in sparking the recent conflict with Lebanon, while Rice accused 
Damascus of undermining attempts to form a moderate Palestinian government by 
backing rejectionists inside Hamas.

In the interview with The Wall Street Journal and another given to The New York 
Times, Rice said the Syrians had effectively entered into an alliance with Iran,
which she also accused of destabilizing the region through its support for 
Hezbollah, Hamas and Iraqi insurgents.

"The Syrians look as if they've made their choice and their choice is to 
associate with extremist forces in Iran, not with their ... traditional partners
like the Arab states," she told the Journal.

US President George W. Bush extended in May a ban on some US exports to Syria, 
including military equipment, and renewed a freeze on the accounts of Syrians 
accused of supporting terror organizations.

Last month the Treasury blacklisted two senior Syrian intelligence officials, 
accusing them of sponsoring terrorism and destabilizing Lebanon.

Asked why Washington has only used relatively mild sanctions against Syria, Rice
suggested the US had been held back by the reticence of European and Arab 

"What we'd really like to do is we'd like to get some others to join us in other
kinds of sanctions," she said.

"And I think as Syria continues to show its stripes and isolate itself from its 
Arab friends, that may be somewhat easier to do," she said.

Rice added that an ongoing UN probe into Hariri's assassination, expected to 
provide evidence of Syria's suspected involvment in the slaying, would add to 
the case for sanctions.

UN chief investigator Serge Brammertz submitted a preliminary report on the 
assassination Friday but has been given until June next year to wrap up the 
probe -- a timeframe Rice suggested was too long.

"It's important that the Brammertz investigation get moving," she said, 
expressing the hope that the final report would be ready by the end of the year.

Rice did not elaborate on what further sanctions she though Syria should face, 
but noted that the European Union recently halted talks on an association 
agreement with Damascus.

Copyright © 2006 Agence France Presse.
Copyright © 2006 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.

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