sanctions on Syria ' could come soon'
08/23/03: (Reuters) Bush administration opposition to a bill that would impose sanctions on Syria seems to be fading, raising hopes the legislation could soon come into force, a key US Congressman said.
Eliot Engel, a key sponsor of the bill, said that he had received strong support for the legislation from Ariel Sharon after meeting the Israeli Prime Minister in Jerusalem.
The Syria Accountability Act cites Syria's support for terrorism, continued military presence in Lebanon, cooperation with Iraq, and development of alleged WMD as reasons for imposing penalties.
Last year, during the run-up to the Iraq war, the administration successfully prevailed on Congressional leaders to block the legislation, arguing that it would undermine US efforts to achieve a Syrian-Israeli peace agreement, maintain high-level communications with Syrian officials to avert serious escalation on the Israeli-Lebanese border, and obtain Syrian cooperation with the administration's policies toward Iraq.
Engel said the bill had the support of majorities in both the US House of Representatives and the Senate. He said that Syria's "collaboration" with Iran in Lebanon – where Tehran backs Hizbullah guerrillas - is a major concern.
"Sharon said that pressure was put on Syria during the Iraq war and in its aftermath but now the pressure has been let up. One way we could put back the pressure on Syria... is by passing this act," Engel said.
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