Tue, May 06, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Powell tells Syria: behave or face `consequences'

ADMONITION The US secretary of state urged Damascus to seal its border with Iraq and close the offices of pro-Palestinian militants on Washington's terrorist list


Any failure by Damascus to use its influence constructively in regards to post-Saddam Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process will result in "consequences," US Secretary of State Colin Powell warned Sunday.

"There are consequences lurking in the background," Powell said in an interview with CBS television, the day after his return from a tour of Europe and the Middle East, including Syria.

Powell reiterated his call to Damascus to react constructively to the new situation in the region following the fall of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's regime.

Powell said he especially pressed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on closing his country's border with Iraq, and closing the Damascus offices of militant pro-Palestinian organizations that Washington considers terrorist groups.

"What counts now is performance ... we're looking for a new attitude on the part of Syria," he said in a separate interview on ABC television.

Powell said that Washington had made clear to Assad that "we are committed to moving forward on this road map."

The US Congress already had legislation in place which would allow it to slap sanctions on Syria if US officials felt Damascus was being uncooperative, Powell said.

While insisting that he had made no promises to the Syrians during his trip, Powell said there were advantages for Damascus if it took a moderate line in regional politics.

"There are new options on the table that might benefit [Syria] ... as we move forward down the road map" for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, he said.

The US, he said, is "looking for a comprehensive settlement of all issues in the region, not just between the Israelis and Palestinians, but ultimately a solution that would include Syrian interests and Lebanese interests as well."

In response, a Syrian government newspaper called yesterday on the US to pressure Israel to withdraw from Arab lands captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

"To guarantee security, stability and peace, pressure must first be exerted on Israel, which is the root source and cause of all tensions," Tishrin wrote.

"The parties worried about stability in the region" must take Israel to task for failing to comply with UN Security Council resolutions which call for the Jewish state to withdraw from Arab land captured in the 1967 Middle East War, the paper said.

Tishrin also hit out at Israel's prime minister, saying "Ariel Sharon wants to keep the Arab territories that Israel occupies and at the same time demand security [for Israel]. This is impossible and unacceptable whatever the circumstances."

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