Sun, Dec 14, 2003 - Page 7 News List

Bush signs legislation on sanctions against Syria


US President George W. Bush on Friday signed legislation that provides for economic and diplomatic sanctions on Syria but also gives him the ability to waive penalties.

Bush signed the legislation in private and gave no indication of whether he intended to waive the sanctions. The White House had opposed the measure until Congress gave him broad waiver authority.

A US official said no decision had been made on waiving sanctions and the administration was still reviewing the issue.

Congress passed the legislation last month after the administration dropped its objections and accused Syria of ignoring US requests to crack down on Palestinian and Lebanese guerrilla groups.

A Bush statement said the law aimed to "strengthen the ability of the United States to conduct an effective foreign policy," but he did not regard its policy statements as binding and would reserve the president's constitutional authority to conduct foreign policy.

The bill bars trade in items that could be used in weapons programs until the administration certifies that Syria is not supporting terrorist groups, has withdrawn personnel from Lebanon, is not developing unconventional weapons and has secured its border with Iraq.

With trade between the two countries a modest US$300 million or less annually, the sanctions would have more political than economic effects.

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