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5/15/03 - SYRIA SPONSORS TERRORISM - 2003-05-20


Terrorists are finding it increasingly difficult to find state sponsors. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell explains why: "States that sponsor terrorism are under international pressure and increasingly isolated."

Afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for al-Qaida and other terrorist groups. And the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime has eliminated Iraq as a state sponsor of terrorism. But several state sponsors remain. They include Syria, says Cofer Black, the U.S. State Department's Coordinator for Counterterrorism:

"We designate Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism despite some cooperation on al-Qaida. . . . Syria provides support to Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas, claiming they only host political offices in Damascus. We reject this distinction. Syria permits resupply flights of Hezbollah through its territory. Syria also rejected a U.S. request to close the Palestinian Islamic Jihad office in Damascus."

The Syrian government has long promoted the distorted view that Palestinian and Lebanese terrorists who carry out bombings and other attacks against Israeli citizens -- including women and children -- are not terrorists.

Syria's president Bashar Assad said he would close the offices of terrorist groups and constrain their activities. But as Secretary of State Powell made clear, "It is not what he says or what he said to me or what he professes -- it's what he actually does. It's performance that we'll be looking at in the days and weeks and months ahead. And he knows that."

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