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12/22/03 - BUSH SIGNS SYRIA ACT - 2003-12-22

President George W. Bush has signed the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act. The new law calls on Syria to end its support for terrorists, stop terrorists and weapons from entering Iraq, stop trying to get weapons of mass destruction, and cease its decades-long military presence in Lebanon.

Syria is already under U.S. economic sanctions for sponsoring terrorism. The new law imposes additional sanctions on Syria, unless the President determines it is in the national security interests of the U.S. to exercise his waiver authority. In a statement, President Bush said the act “is intended to strengthen the ability of the United States to conduct an effective foreign policy.”

John Bolton, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, says there is “no graver threat to [the U.S.] 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. . .whose terrorist operations have killed hundreds of innocent people -- including Americans -- falls into this category of states of potential dual threat.”

Since September 11th, 2001, Syria has been helpful in some respects in regard to the al-Qaida terrorist network, and the U.S. appreciates that cooperation. But U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says that terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas “continue to conduct activities in and through Syrian territory”:

“We’ve said all along quite clearly, in public and in private, that those people, those operations, those activities need to be shut down. It wasn’t just a matter of closing a door and saying the office is closed, but that people shouldn’t be allowed to operate in that fashion from Syria.”

That is why the U.S. Congress has passed -- and President Bush has signed -- the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act. The goal is to put Syria out of the terrorism business permanently and make the Middle East and the world at large a safer place.