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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 April, 2003, 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK
World media ask: Why Syria?
World media claim US is targeting Muslim states
The world's press is querying US accusations that Syria harbours Iraqi fugitives and is developing weapons of mass destruction, with some seeing sinister motives behind Washington's stance.

"Now that the US is nearly through with 'regime change' in Iraq, Syria could be the next on queue for gunboat diplomacy," says Kenya's Standard.

Indonesia's Koran Tempo is convinced that Washington is not making idle threats against Syria and is intending to launch a military attack.

"Washington will isolate Syria, strangle it with embargoes and force it to disarm," it writes.

"When it is powerless, the United States can 'liberate' the Syrian people by dropping bomb after bomb on Damascus.
If Bush's re-election in 18 months should be endangered by the poor economic situation, his advisers could consider a new confrontation useful
Die Tageszeitung

"Prepare for a sequel to US-style slaughter."

Germany's Die Welt is not so sure:

"Political Washington is threatening but the military is silent. That shows that there are no operational plans in progress."

Another German paper, Die Tageszeitung, thinks US domestic politics will determine whether or not the US attacks Syria.

"If Bush's re-election in 18 months should be endangered by the poor economic situation, his advisers could consider a new confrontation useful to get the voters back behind the commander-in-chief in the White House," it says.

What weapons?

Several papers give little credence to the US reports that Damascus is giving sanctuary to fleeing Iraqi officials and has weapons of mass destruction.

Pakistan's Nawa-i-waqt describes the claims as "totally unjustified".

The US is targeting not destructive weapons but the Muslim world.
"Syria is neither a threat for the US nor does it have any weapons of mass destruction," it says.

For the Irish Times, "it is stretching credibility to believe the Syrian government would knowingly give sanction to leading figures from the vanquished regime".

The Kenya Times suggests the US is engaged in "sabre-rattling".

"As for the weapons of mass destruction Syria supposedly harbours, why would those pushing for war against yet another Arab regime not reveal to the world the bio-chemical weapons they may have unearthed in Iraq?" the paper asks.

Dangerous trend

There is widespread belief that the US will not stop at Syria but will move to confront other Arab countries and Muslim states.

"The talk of Syria after the attack on Iraq reveals the US is targeting not destructive weapons but the Muslim world," the Pakistan daily believes.

India's Hindustan Times appears to agree: "The US warning only exposes its expansionist policy and its intention to seize the entire Arab region." Some papers believe US plans to realise peace in the Middle East are behind its threats towards Syria.

The Irish Times describes Syria's role in the region as "deeply bound up with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict".

China's Renmin Ribao warns the US of the dangers it may face if the threats against Syria continue.

"The condemnation that the US will suffer from the international community and domestic public opinion over this will be unprecedented," it says.

Beijing's official China Daily reiterates this point:

"The US intention to use the leverage it has gained from its military victory in Iraq to exert diplomatic and economic pressure on other nations to change their behaviour is dangerous."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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