Bush continues Syria sanctions


President Bush ordered the continuation of sanctions against Syria, citing its alleged development of a nuclear reactor.

Bush first imposed the sanctions on May 11, 2004, basing them on the Syria Accountability Act adopted overwhelmingly by Congress in 2003. The president has expanded them twice.

The sanctions must be renewed annually, and Bush issued the order last week in time for this year’s anniversary.

The sanctions keep Syrian aircraft from U.S. airspace, ban all but humanitarian U.S. exports to Syria and freeze property in the United States held by leading members of the Assad regime. Bush has yet to impose tougher sanctions at his disposal, including the blocking of imports from Syria.

“The actions of the Government of Syria in supporting terrorism, interfering in Lebanon, pursuing weapons of mass destruction and missile programs including the recent revelation of illicit nuclear cooperation with North Korea, and undermining U.S. and international efforts with respect to the stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” Bush said in his message to Congress.

He was referring to what U.S. intelligence has said is the nuclear reactor destroyed in an Israeli air raid last September. Neither Israel nor Syria has affirmed that the target was a reactor.

The statement comes as Israel has stepped up its third-party contacts with Syria toward renewing peace talks, a process the Bush administration has opposed because of Syria’s continued hegemonic ambitions in Lebanon and its failure to keep insurgents from crossing its border into Iraq.

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