Democratic presidential contender says US should target Syria, Hizbullah
Democratic presidential contender Bob Graham said on Thursday that Syria should force Lebanon's Hizbullah to close what he described as "terrorist training camps" on its territory or face unspecified U.S. retaliation.
Graham, a Florida senator and former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee seeking the Democratic nomination to face President Bush in 2004, did not specify how Washington would react if Syria did not comply. He has said in the past that military action might be necessary.
Citing U.S. intelligence reports, Graham called Hizbullah "the A-Team of international terrorism" and said it had "a significant number" of operatives in the United States awaiting orders to act.
Graham said at a Council on Foreign Relations forum that if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad did not eliminate the training camps then Washington should consult with allies who helped wage the war in Afghanistan "and decide the next step."
Syrian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Bouthaina Shaaban, who also participated in the forum, denied that Hizbullah was operating training camps on Syrian soil and said the group aimed solely to end illegal Israeli occupations.
She also said Syria had done all it could to block Iraqi officials from crossing the border.
Graham has been the most aggressive of the Democratic presidential candidates in criticizing Syria. He said the United States was blundering down the path it followed in Afghanistan, where it allowed Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network to run training camps that produced the hijackers behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"For the sake of our children and our grandchildren we cannot afford to repeat the mistakes we made in Afghanistan with al Qaeda in Syria with Hizbullah," he said.
On the Middle East peace process, Shaaban said "The only solution to the Middle East is to end occupation and settlement." (Albawaba.com)
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