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U.S. Congress Approves Sanctions Against Syria


US Congress Passes Syria Accountability Act

The US Congress gave its final approval of the US-imposed Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty in a vote of 89 to 4. The Act means that new tough sanctions would be imposed on Syria from economic restrictions to downgrading Washington's diplomatic representation.

The bill states that Syria must end its support for so-called terrorism, terminate what it termed its occupation of Lebanon, stop efforts to obtain or produce weapons of mass destruction and stop so-called terrorists and weapons from entering Iraq. Republican Senator Richard Santorum said,

"It is a country that sponsors terrorism, that supports terrorism, that encourages terrorism, not only against American interests, not only against Israel, but it is occupying - through setting up these terrorist organizations as well as their own military force - occupying what was a very moderate, progressive Arab country, Lebanon. That is a heinous act."

But Robert Byrd, one of the senators who voted against the measure, feared the vote "could later lead to military aggression against Syria."

Byrd and the three other senators want the bill to be limited to economic sanctions. Democrat Senator Barbara Boxer said, "We don't want to go to war with Syria. We just want to say in a truthful way: These are the things that you have been doing wrong, please meet these markers. Help us. Help us in the world. And if you don't we're going to have some sanctions."

The vote was passed as US congressmen met with Syrian President Bashar Assad and his foreign minister Farouq al-Shara in Damascus.

Syria stressed that dialogue with the United States is important but it noted that the US should take into consideration the interests of both countries, which should be fair for both. Jim Kolbe, a Republican leading the delegation called for dialogue as well to improve ties despite the threat of sanctions.

Republican Jim Kolbe said, "We had very good discussions with President Assad and also with the Foreign Minister. We understand there are still major differences between the United States and Syria in our policies, but we believe that dialogue is the way in which we can hope to repair that relationship…We also look forward to working with Syria to return the assets from Iraq to that country so the people of that country can use them to help to rebuild their country." President Assad had once again cleared Syria's stance toward the Iraqi issue.

He told Jeremy Greenstock, UK Ambassador to the UN, that there should be an elected Iraqi government, a constitution acceptable to all Iraqis, and for Iraqis to assume power themselves.

Greenstock said, "We covered all the issues in Iraq. We talked about politics about the economics of Iraq about security and I think Syria and the United Kingdom are to bring change and there will be some continuing security problems. We have not tried to hide these."

But despite all the pressures that Syria is undergoing, Damascus sees these visits as an acknowledgment of its regional role, and its course of political dialogue.

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