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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 September, 2003, 04:36 GMT 05:36 UK
Syria rejects US criticism
Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Sharaa greets Colin Powell
US officials have stepped up criticism of Syria in recent months
Syria has rejected US accusations that it poses a threat to global security.

US Undersecretary of State for arms control John Bolton said Syria represented a dual threat to international security by supporting terrorism and trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

But Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Sharaa dismissed the criticisms, saying that the Damascus was willing to co-operate with Washington, provided the demands were "reasonable and realistic".

The comments come as US Congress considers legislation to impose sanctions on Syria if it does not change its behaviour.

'Rogue states'

The US has accused Syria of failing to crack down on the Hezbollah group and allowing militants to cross into Iraq.

America has too many demands. If they are reasonable and realistic Syria is ready to co-operate
Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Sharaa
"I ask: Who is co-operating with America as America wants?" countered Mr al-Sharaa

"America has too many demands. If they are reasonable and realistic Syria is ready to co-operate," he said.

Mr Bolton grouped Syria with other "rogue states - those most aggressively seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction and their delivery and which are therefore threats to our national security".

But a spokeswoman for Syria's foreign ministry, Bouthaina Shaban, dismissed the description.

"I think the policy here is to rid all Arabs of any armaments they have while their territories are occupied, while [funding] Israel to have all kinds of mass destruction weapons," she told the BBC.

Sanctions debated

Mr Bolton warned the US had to give itself the option to use "every tool" at its disposal to prevent the spread of such weapons.

The US Congressional bill, known as the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act, would demand that Damascus changed its behaviour or face American sanctions.

The Bush administration has not taken a position on the proposed act, which also condemns Syria's military presence in Lebanon, but has in recent months weeks been indicating it is toughening its stance towards Damascus.

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