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6/25/03 - TERRORISTS IN SYRIA - 2003-06-25

The United States is continuing to press the Syrian government to stop supporting Palestinian terrorists operating from Syria and Syrian-controlled parts of Lebanon. So far, as U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said, the steps Syria has taken are “totally inadequate.”

Because of Syria’s support for Palestinian and other terrorist groups, the U.S. has long designated Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism. This designation was recently renewed.

When he visited Damascus, Secretary of State Powell emphasized to Syrian President Bashar Assad that Syria’s support for terrorists has to stop:

“My clear message to President Bashar Assad is that some of the policies you’ve been following in the past will not take you anywhere in the future. Support of terrorist activities, the presence in Damascus of organizations that continue to cause terrorist activity to take place, which makes it hard to move forward on the Middle East peace process, these things have to come to an end. So offices have to be closed.”

But in a June 9th interview with the satellite television channel Al-Arabiya, President Assad continued falsely to claim that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are only “conducting informational activities” in Syria and that there is “no point in closing [their] offices.”

Until Syria stops supporting terrorism, said Secretary of State Powell, “there will not be a better relationship with the United States, and ultimately it will affect [Syria’s] interests. The region is changing. Saddam Hussein and that evil regime is gone. The leaders in the Middle East are committed to a peace process.” Syria can contribute to this process, said Secretary of State Powell, or it can “continue to be a terror-supporting regime. . .in which case there will be consequences.”