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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 October, 2003, 14:02 GMT 15:02 UK
US sanctions against Syria closer
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (centre)
Syria has been accused by the US of aiding terrorists
The United States has moved closer to imposing sanctions on Syria, after lawmakers voted to punish Damascus for its alleged support of terrorism.

The House of Representatives voted 398-4 in favour of trade, diplomatic and travel sanctions on Syria.

The vote came after the White House lifted its earlier objection to the legislation, which also calls on Damascus to end its occupation of Lebanon.

Correspondents say the vote comes at a time when relations between Damascus and Washington have hit a new low.


The bill gives the White House a range of options for sanctioning Syria, including:

  • Restricting US exports and business investment.

  • Downgrading American diplomatic representation

  • Imposing travel restrictions on Syrian diplomats in the United States

  • Freezing Syria's assets in the United States

  • Restricting overfly rights for Syrian aircraft inside US airspace

    Before it becomes law, the bill must be approved by the Senate and signed by the president.
    Syria is a government at war with the values of the civilised world and a violent threat to free nations and free men everywhere
    Tom DeLay

    This is expected in the coming weeks.

    The White House said sanctions would continue until Syria stopped sponsoring terrorism and halted programmes for weapons of mass destruction, according to Reuters news agency.

    "Syria is a government at war with the values of the civilised world and a violent threat to free nations and free men everywhere," House majority leader Tom DeLay said after the vote.

    "We will send a very clear message to the President [Bashar] al-Assad... The United States will not tolerate terrorism, its perpetrators or its sponsors," Mr DeLay said.

    Syrian denial

    The Bush administration has accused Damascus of doing little to help the United States in its combating terrorism.

    It has also charged Damascus with allowing groups to pass into Iraq to attack US soldiers.

    Syria, which denies the charges, has little trade with the United States, but the sanctions could ban US investment there and restrict exports.

    Mr Assad has described members of President Bush's government as "fanatics" and "warmongers", according to the AFP news agency.

    He told a summit meeting of leaders from around the Islamic world at Putrajaya, Malaysia, that the United States "violate sovereignty, impose economic sanctions, invade countries culturally."

    US set to tighten Syria sanctions
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    Country profile: Syria
    15 Sep 03  |  Country profiles

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