Home>News Center>World

Bush demands Syria withdraw forces from Lebanon
Updated: 2005-02-18 09:27

US President Bush on Thursday demanded Syria pull troops from Lebanon in the wake of the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and said he would seek support from European leaders next week to put more pressure on Damascus.

"Syria is out of step with the progress being made in the greater Middle East," Bush told a news conference.

He said it was too early to conclude that Syria had a role in killing Hariri. "I don't know yet, because the investigation is ongoing."

Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, said the United States objected to Russian plans to sell advanced surface-to-air missiles to Syria.

"We have some concerns and we've raised them with the Russian government ... and we're hopeful and confident the Russians will take them into account," Hadley told reporters.

The bomb blast that killed Hariri came at a sensitive time for U.S. policy in the Middle East, as Washington tries to steer Iraq toward democracy and to seal a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Washington has used outrage prompted by the assassination of Hariri to intensify pressure it was already bringing on Damascus to withdraw from Lebanon.

Bush said he expected Syria to adhere to last September's U.N. Security Council resolution 1559, which calls for the removal of the Syrian troops, adding Damascus must promote free and fair elections in Lebanon.

Hariri was killed on Monday and many Lebanese immediately blamed Syria, which maintains a sizeable military and security presences in their country. Damascus denies any involvement, but the event has contributed to a rapid deterioration in U.S. relations with Syria, with Bush summoning the U.S. ambassador for urgent consultations.


Bush goes to Brussels next week to meet European Union and NATO leaders. He said he would use the meetings to rally pressure against Damascus.

"I look forward to working with my European friends on my upcoming trip to talk about how we can work together to convince the Syrians to make rational decisions," he said.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the administration believed it had the diplomatic tools to try to force Syria to leave Lebanon but noted Bush never took options off the table -- code for not ruling out the possibility, however remote, of military action.

"The president always reserves his options," Rice told the Senate Appropriations Committee. But she said concerted international pressure should move the Syrians to act.

Sen. Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat and opponent of the Iraq war, said the administration's case for the war with Iraq was "built on a house of cards" and that he felt he was now hearing similar harsh rhetoric toward Syria and Iran.

"My concern is that the administration is leading us down the same path once again with respect to Iran and Syria, substituting saber-rattling for negotiations and just maybe allowing armed conflict to trump diplomacy."

Acting under the Syria Accountability Act and other U.S. laws, Bush in May banned most U.S. exports to Syria other than food and medicine, severed banking relations with the Commercial Bank of Syria and barred Syrian flights to and from the United States.

Other steps he could take under the act include prohibiting U.S. businesses from investing or operating in Syria, barring Syrian diplomats in the United States from traveling more than 25 miles from Washington or New York, and reducing diplomatic contacts.

Bush could also freeze the assets of Syrian officials. The administration was debating whether U.S. troops could cross the Syrian border from Iraq in "hot pursuit" of insurgents, sources familiar with the discussions said.

  Today's Top News     Top World News

Official plans DPRK visit on nuclear impasse



Project aims to revitalize Silk Road trade ties



China ponders electricity rate hike



Liaoning mine blast compensation under way



Iraq's Shi'ites win slim majority in assembly



Negroponte selected as US intelligence chief


  Negroponte selected as US intelligence chief
  Iran urges alliance against U.S. plots
  Iraq's Shi'ites win slim majority in assembly
  Iran says nuclear fuel deal with Russia imminent
  Jewish settlers prepare for withdrawal
  Kashmir bus deal turns wheel on Indo-Pak peace process
  Go to Another Section  
  Story Tools  
  Related Stories  
Iran urges alliance against U.S. plots
Report: Iran, Syria to form 'united front'
U.S. ambassador in Syria summoned home for talks
  News Talk  
  Are the Republicans exploiting the memory of 9/11?