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ARAB-US RELATIONS - Oct 19 - US Refuses To Rule Out Syria Strike.

Addressing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, State Sec Condoleezza Rice says both Syria and Iran are allowing fighters and military assistance to reach insurgents in Iraq. The US refuses to rule out possible military action against Syria but says it had not exhausted diplomatic moves to get Damascus to change its ways over Iraq and Lebanon. "Syria and Iran must decide whether they wish to side with the cause of war or with the cause of peace", Rice said at a hearing called to discuss US strategy in Iraq, where more than 150,000 US troops are struggling to end an insurgency. Pressed by senators over whether the Bush administration was planning military action against Syria in particular, Rice said the US was still on a "diplomatic course" with Damascus but the military option remained open. "The president never takes any option off the table and he shouldn't", said Rice when asked about a military option. The Bush administration has accused Syria of doing too little to stop foreign fighters from entering neighbouring Iraq. Syria, in turn, says the US has not done enough to secure the border or deliver technical help it has promised. Rice declined to say whether the president would present any plans to Congress in advance of starting any possible military action against Syria, saying she did not want to circumscribe his powers. Her strong criticism of Syria came as the UN was preparing to release a report on Oct 21 on the assassination last February of Rafik al-Hariri, the former Lebanese PM. The US, France and others, say they believe Syria might have played a role in the killing of Hariri and 20 others in a bombing in Beirut on Feb. 14 and are calling for strong action if that is the case. Pres Bashar Al Assad of Syria has said that his country was not involved in Hariri's death, and he reiterated this in an interview with a German newspaper released on Oct 19, telling Die Zeit that Syria is "100 percent innocent".
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Oct 22, 2005
Previous Article:SYRIA - Oct 21 - Damascus Pressed On Hariri Plot.
Next Article:IRAQ - Oct 19 - Defiant Saddam Pleads Not Guilty.

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