Tags: Congress | Bush | Odds | Over | Syria

Congress, Bush At Odds Over Syria

Wednesday, 01 May 2002 12:00 AM

"If our efforts on both comprehensive peace and the war against terrorism are to succeed, the president and the secretary will need flexibility to determine what combination of incentives and disincentives will maximize cooperation and advance our goals,” Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs Paul Kelly wrote in a letter to Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., quoted by the Jerusalem Post.

"For this reason, we do not believe this is the right time for legislative initiatives that could complicate our efforts. The imposition of new sanctions on Syria would place at risk our ability to address a range of important issues directly with the Syrian government and render more difficult our efforts to change Syrian behavior and avoid a dangerous escalation,” Kelly added.

The plea from State is seen as only the latest move by the administration to quell the pro-Israeli forces in Congress. Recently, Secretary of State Colin Powell asked House Majority Whip Tom DeLay to quash a resolution he introduced expressing solidarity with Israel. The vote was resheduled.

Furthermore, the administration wants to nix legislation demanding that sanctions on the Palestinian Authority be imposed if it is found not in compliance with signed accords.

Meanwhile pro-Israel forces are up in arms.

"There is no more important time for the voice of Congress to be heard on matters of foreign policy than when critical decisions are being made. The bedrock support this Congress has for Israel is unwavering and will build momentum in the days and weeks ahead,” said Rebecca Needle of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, said.

"The Bush administration may have convinced some members of Congress to delay legislation on the Middle East temporarily, but ultimately their voice will not be muted,” one pro-Israel lobbyist told the Post.

"If the Bush administration does not want to hold Syria accountable for its roll in harboring terrorists, Congress must. There is no more important time for the voice of Congress to be heard on matters of foreign policy than when critical decisions are being made.”

Last Week, Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. and Dick Armey, R-Tex., introduced the bill. A similar version was launched in the Senate. Biden, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, triggered the Kelly plea by seeking the state department’s opinion on the bill.

In the letter, Kelly maintains that Syrian intelligence cooperation in the war against terrorism has "helped save American lives.” Additionally, Kelly emphasized that Secretary of State Colin Powell had already strongly voiced to Damascus, "Syria’s support and safe haven for terrorist groups must end.”

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If our efforts on both comprehensive peace and the war against terrorism are to succeed, the president and the secretary will need flexibility to determine what combination of incentives and disincentives will maximize cooperation and advance our goals," Assistant Secretary...
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2002-00-01
Wednesday, 01 May 2002 12:00 AM
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