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Last Updated: Saturday, 13 December, 2003, 21:46 GMT
Syria calls for dialogue with US
Syrian President Bashar Assad (r) speaks with US Congressman Christopher Cox
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad wants to discuss the legislation
The Syrian Government has called for talks with the US, a day after President George W Bush approved a law threatening sanctions.

Syria said it wanted "a frank and constructive dialogue" over the law, which could ban US exports to Syria and freeze Syria's assets in the US.

The US wants Syria to restrain militants and halt alleged chemical and biological weapons programmes.

Syria says the sanctions are because of its support for Arab rights.

Congress backing

The official Syrian news agency, Sana, says the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, has discussed the need for talks with a delegation from the US Congress over the Syria Accountability Act, which Mr Bush approved on Friday.

The legislation - passed by large majorities in both chambers of Congress - demands that Syria restrains militants in the country, withdraws its army from Lebanon and halts its alleged chemical and biological weapons programmes.

End support for terrorists
Pull troops out of Lebanon
End acquisition and production of weapons of mass destruction and long-range ballistic missiles
Prevent terrorists and weapons from entering Iraq

Ban on sales of dual-use technology
Export ban
Prohibition of operations by US businesses
Limits on Syrian airline flights within US
Reduction of diplomatic contacts
Freeze on Syrian assets in US
Damascus has described the law as: "Really bad - bad for Syria, bad for peace in the Middle East and bad for American-Syrian relations and American-Arab relations in general."

President Bush has sought to distance himself from the law, hinting he might waive some of its measures in the interests of national security.

"My approval of the act does not constitute my adoption of the various statements of policy in the act as US foreign policy," he said in a statement on Friday.

Syrian Expatriates Minister Buthaynah Shaaban said Syria was facing US sanctions because of its support for Arab rights and resistance, and its opposition to occupation and settlement.

Another member of the Syrian parliament, George Jabbour, told the BBC's Newshour programme Syria had done nothing wrong in international law, and members of the US Congress had been misguided by biased media reports.

He said the US was itself breaking the law by asking Syria to curtail the freedom of expression of the Palestinians and the Lebanese.

Syria is on the US State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism, along with North Korea, Sudan, Cuba, Iran and Libya, but is the only one of these countries to have full diplomatic relations with Washington.

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