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Bush: Syria must end its own isolation

Syrian President Bashar Assad must end his nation’s isolation, President Bush said, rejecting calls for dialogue. “You know, some have suggested that the United States start diplomatic relations with Syria,” Bush said Thursday, speaking at a high school in Tipp City, Ohio. “My message is, the Syrian has got the choice to make; the Syrian president must make the choice that will stop isolating his regime. And the United States will continue to make it clear to Syria, and work with other nations to make it clear to Syria, that their behavior is unacceptable if we want peace in the Middle East.” In fact, the United States already has diplomatic relations with Syria. Bush apparently was referring to calls by top Democrats for greater engagement with Syria to help maintain order in neighboring Iraq and encourage peace talks with Israel. The Bush administration wants Syria to end its backing for anti-Israel terrorist groups, end its interference in Lebanon, cooperate with investigations into assassinations in Lebanon and stop insurgents from crossing its border into Iraq. Bush said contacts with Syria and Iran would continue through multilateral contact groups aimed at calming the civil war in Iraq.