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5/14/04 - SANCTIONS ON SYRIA - 2004-05-14

The United States is imposing sanctions on the government of Syria. The sanctions include a prohibition on the export to Syria of U.S. products other than food and medicine.

The U.S. action comes after months of diplomatic efforts to convince Syria to end its policy of supporting terrorism, its occupation of Lebanon, and its efforts to get weapons of mass destruction.

Syria provides political and material support to terrorist groups, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, that seek to destroy the state of Israel. Other terrorist groups, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, also operate from Syria. Syria allows Iran to use Damascus as a transshipment point for supplying weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Syrian troops entered Lebanon in 1976 and Syria maintains a large military presence there. Syria’s action in Lebanon is contrary to the 1989 accord which calls for the restoration of Lebanese sovereignty.

And on the eve of the U.S.-led coalition’s invasion of Iraq, Syria sent military supplies to the Saddam Hussein regime. U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says that Syria continues to undermine the stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq:

“In some of those areas, we saw some action, we made clear all along that we didn’t feel like there was a serious and comprehensive response. We’ve never felt that Syria has adapted itself to the new realities. And, as a consequence, we had said all along that our relationship would suffer, and we saw that when [the U.S.] Congress proposed the [sanctions] legislation, the President decided he should sign it and now implement it.”

U.S. State Department spokesman Boucher says that the U.S. still hopes that Syria will “stop supporting terrorist groups, and adapt its policies to be a stable and harmonious member of that region.”