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For Syrian Accountability & A Free Lebanon

First Publish: 10/16/2003, 9:33 PM

The US House of Representatives has voted to impose sanctions on Syria as a result of the Arab state’s continued support for international terrorists, its efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction and its ongoing occupation of neighboring Lebanon. The vote yesterday (Wednesday) in favor of the legislation that would impose the sanctions, known as the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act (HR 1828), was 398-4. US President George W. Bush indicated that his two years of opposition to the legislation is at an end and that he will sign it into law.

The bill bans the exportation of ‘dual-use’ technology to Syria, authorizes the president to curb US investment in Syria, freeze the Syrian government's assets in the United States, reduce US diplomatic contacts with Syria, and ban Syrian overflight rights inside the United States.

US House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) said the bipartisan vote is "a critical addition to America's diplomatic arsenal in the war on terror. Syria is a government at war with the values of the civilized world and a violent threat to free nations and free men everywhere."

However, the Director of the Lebanese Foundation for Peace, Prof. Murray Kahl, in an article on Israel National News.com (http://www.israelnationalnews.com/article.php3?id=2824), commented that the Act is actually "a problem for the Lebanese resistance forces, for it only offers sanctions, at best, against Syria. Saddam Hussein withstood those sanctions for about ten years and so will Syria if they are applied."

Meanwhile, another Lebanese activist, Ziad K. Abdelnour, president of the US Committee for a Free Lebanon (USCFL) said, "We at the USCFL commend the bipartisan efforts of Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen and Congressman Engel for their perseverance in gathering co-sponsors and for seeking a vote in the House. The fact that their bill has an overwhelming number of co-sponsors in the House and Senate shows that the American people want to rein in the terrorist state of Syria and want Syria to get out of Lebanon so that a democracy can be returned there. We are very happy that the Bush administration has given the Congress the go-ahead to approve new United States penalties against the dictatorship in Syria."

The current pro-Syrian government in Lebanon reacted by saying that the Syrian troops in the county are welcome. And a columnist for the Lebanese newspaper al-Sharq called the Act "a sham" that "has been endorsed due to the pressure of the Jewish lobby and a few hard-liners in the US administration." In Syria itself, on Wednesday, the discussion of the US bill was greeted by anti-American protests, during which demonstrators burned and trampled American and Israeli flags. The Damascus protest lasted more than an hour, yet was organized without the required governmental permission for public gatherings.