US Deputy Secretary of State: Syria may face sanctions; Congressman: Syria wants dialogue

Published April 20th, 2003 - 02:00 GMT

Syria will face "sanctions" if it continues to support movements such as Lebanon's Hizbullah and the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad, US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said.  


"If Syria decided to maintain its support for terrorism, particularly of Hizbullah and Islamic Jihad in Palestine, we will be forced to impose sanctions and other political measures on it," Armitage told the Al-Khaleej daily, published in the United Arab Emirates.  


"Syria is at a crossroads," he said. "Many things have changed and I hope President Assad takes that into consideration."  


Armitage stressed that Syria's neighbors were "friends" of the United States, mentioning Israel, Jordan and Turkey and also Iraq.  


Armitage assured the US-British administration of Iraq would be "very short." "We are going to try to put in power as quickly as possible an interim Iraqi government," he said.  


Meanwhile, a U.S. congressman said on Sunday that Syria wanted a positive dialogue with the United States.  


"We had a very positive meeting with President Bashar al-Assad...they want to have a positive dialogue with Washington," Congressman Darrell Issa told Reuters after a two-hour meeting with Assad in Damascus.  


Republican congressman Issa was joined by his Democratic colleague Nick Rahal.  


"We have many positive messages to Washington," said Issa. "Assad went out of his way in being positive."  


Issa, who arrived in Damascus on Saturday after a visit to Israel, said the congressional delegation also discussed the revival of Arab-Israeli peace talks and a U.S. request that Syria close the offices of radical Palestinian groups.  


"No proposal was rejected off hand," said Issa when asked about Assad's reaction to U.S. requests.  


Issa said Washington wanted Syria to throw its weight behind the "road map" for Middle East peace, which envisages a Palestinian state by 2005 and a halt to Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza to cap Israeli-Palestinian violence.  


"We want Syria to engage in the U.S. efforts to mobilize the peace process through the road map. Now the war (with Iraq) is over. We should aim for a peaceful and prosperous Iraq and a peaceful and prosperous Middle East." (

© 2003 Al Bawaba (

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