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US and Europe Consider Penalizing Syria

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From http://www.defensenews.com


United States, Europe Consider Penalties Against Syria



The United States and European allies are considering joint measures to punish Syria if it fails to take concrete steps to withdraw from Lebanon, officials said March 3, as President George W. Bush renewed his demand that Damascus get out now.


Stepping up public pressure on Syria for a second day in a row, Bush said, "The message is loud and clear -- from the United States and France and many other nations -- that Syria must withdraw not only her troops, but her secret service forces out of Lebanon now."


The president said he would discuss the issue later in the day with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and was seeking an "amplification on her visit with our allies overseas" on their views on Lebanon.


"I look forward to not only hearing their words, I want to hear about their body language, I want to hear about their enthusiasm for the project. I think I'm going to find it was quite high because people now understand that if you believe in democracy, why not let the democracy in Lebanon flourish and grow," Bush said.


A senior Bush administration official said the United States and its allies were now assessing "what additional steps the international community can take to assert or seek compliance."


"We're looking for a way forward in the event that Syria doesn't live up" to a U.S.- and French-sponsored Security Council resolution calling for foreign troops to leave Lebanon, the official said of the discussions.


Washington's goal, according to administration and congressional officials, is to be ready to act quickly in conjunction with Europe, possibly with joint sanctions and a tougher new U.N. resolution.


"In the event Syria does not comply, other measures have to be explored," an administration official said. "We're looking ahead at how to respond to any of the contingencies that may arise."


Officials said it was unclear what specific economic and diplomatic measures would be included in any trans-Atlantic package to penalize Syria.


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was quoted in a “Time” magazine interview as saying he expected Syrian troops to pull out of Lebanon in a few months. Washington, while setting no deadlines, has reacted with skepticism.


But after meeting with Bush at the White House this week, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, R-Ind., said Syria must pull its troops from Lebanon faster than the timetable suggested by Assad.


Any trans-Atlantic punitive measures would come on top of new unilateral sanctions Washington is considering imposing on its own. Those include freezing Syrian assets to further isolating its banking system.

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