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Archive for Monday, May 5, 2003

Powell: Syria now understands how to cooperate about Iraq

May 5, 2003

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— If he had any doubts, Syrian President Bashar Assad now knows just what he must do to bring his country in line with U.S. plans for the Middle East, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday.

Powell, who met with Assad on Saturday in Damascus, said the Bush administration and Congress were monitoring Syria's moves in the aftermath of the U.S.-led war that toppled Saddam Hussein's government in neighboring Iraq.

"There are no illusions in his mind as to what we are looking for from Syria," Powell told NBC's "Meet the Press."

"There was, as we put it in diplomatic terms, a candid exchange of views, but it is not promises that we are interested in, or assurances, but it is action. We will see what happens in the days, weeks, months ahead."

Powell said that's what he told Assad.

"What I said to him is that we would be watching, and we would measure performance over time to see whether Syria is prepared now to move in a new direction in light of these changed circumstances," the secretary of state said on ABC's "This Week."

A key question involving Iraq, Powell said, was whether Syria would keep its eastern border closed, and track down and surrender any Iraqi suspects who might cross it to escape prosecution.

As of now, Syria's oil from Iraq and other trade going both ways have been shut off, Powell said.

If Syria follows through on those steps and cooperates with rebuilding Iraq, including the formation of a democratic government, Powell said, "Then that tells us one thing about Syria's decision to move forward: that they looking for a better relationship with United States. If they do not, then there will be consequences."

Powell said he emphasized in his discussion with Assad that monumental change in the Middle East has come not only with Saddam's ouster but also with a new prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, in place to represent the Palestinians in the peace process with Israel.

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