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9/23/03 - SYRIA BEHAVIOR UNACCEPTABLE - 2003-09-23

The United States continues to have serious concerns about Syria’s behavior in the Middle East. This includes Syria’s support for terrorists and its programs to develop weapons of mass destruction. John Bolton, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, addressed these concerns in recent testimony to members of the U.S. Congress:

“There is no graver threat to our country today than states that both sponsor terrorism and possess or aspire to possess weapons of mass destruction. Syria, which offers physical sanctuary and political protection to groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and whose terrorist operations have killed hundreds of innocent people -- including Americans -- falls into this category of states of potential dual threat.”

As Under Secretary of State Bolton pointed out, “Since the 1970s, Syria has pursued what is now one of the most advanced Arab state chemical weapons capabilities. It has a stockpile of the nerve agent sarin that can be delivered by aircraft or ballistic missiles, and [it] has engaged in the research and development of more toxic and persistent nerve agents such as V-X.”

Mr. Bolton said that Syria also has hundreds of short-range ballistic missiles, “and is believed to have chemical warheads available for a portion” of them. He said that Syria “has also developed a longer-range missile -- the Scud D -- with assistance from North Korea.”

Under Secretary of State Bolton said “there is currently no information indicating that the Syrian government has transferred [weapons of mass destruction] to terrorist organizations, or [that it] would permit such groups to acquire them.” But, he said, “Syria’s ties to numerous terrorist groups underlie the reasons for [America’s] continuing anxiety.”

In addition, said White House spokesman Scott McClellan, President George W. Bush remains concerned about infiltration of foreign terrorists from Syria into Iraq:

“Their behavior is unacceptable. And states that harbor terror, as the President has made clear, will be held accountable.”

Syria has a choice to make. That choice should be to end association with terrorist groups and cease development of weapons of mass destruction.