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08 October 2003

House Committee Approves Imposing Sanctions on Syria

Congressional Report, October 8: Syria, Africa

The House of Representatives' International Relations Committee overwhelmingly approved legislation October 8 that would impose limited sanctions against Syria.

The bill -- the Syria Accountability Act -- was approved by a vote of 33-2 and is expected to come up for debate in the full House of Representatives during the week of October 13-17, according to a committee summary. There is a companion bill in the Senate, but that legislation has not left committee.

The bill calls for sanctions to be imposed until such time as President Bush declares that Syria has stopped sponsoring terrorism and has halted chemical and biological weapons programs.

It would also require the president to select two sanctions from a list that includes:
-- barring U.S. exports to and investment in Syria, except for food and medicine;
-- freezing Syrian government assets in the United States;
-- banning Syrian aircraft from U.S. air space;
-- reducing diplomatic contacts with Damascus; and
-- prohibiting Syrian diplomats from traveling more than 25 miles outside of Washington or the United Nations headquarters in New York.

The measure would also keep Syria on the Department of State's list of nations that sponsor terrorism, demand that Syria withdraw its troops from Lebanon, and hold Syria responsible for terrorism against U.S. military forces in Iraq.

The House bill has 281 co-sponsors while the Senate version has 76 co-sponsors. The level of co-sponsorship is generally indicative of a piece of legislation's support in Congress and chances of final passage.

At the White House, spokesman Scott McClellan said the administration is not opposed to the bill, but it would like to see "what the final language is."

He told reporters: "We have talked to some of those leaders who are working on this issue, and we have expressed that we are not opposed to this bill. But of course, we would like to see the final language before moving forward on that. And I would remind you that we have repeatedly said that Syria is on the wrong side in war on terrorism, and that Syria needs to stop harboring terrorists. And that message has been sent loud and clear to the Syrians, as well."

HOUSE AUTHORIZES FUNDS FOR CONGO RIVER BASIN PROJECTS

In other legislative deliberations, on October 7 the House of Representatives authorized $37.2 million for an international partnership to manage development and conservation of the Congo River Basin. Passed unanimously, the measure authorizes $18.6 million in fiscal years 2004 and 2005 for the Congo Basin Forest Project. Of that amount, $16 million would be used annually for the Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment, a program administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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