U.S., Britain Split on Assad; 'Road Map' Role Straining Ties

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 19, 2003 | Go to article overview

U.S., Britain Split on Assad; 'Road Map' Role Straining Ties


Byline: Andrew Borowiec, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

NICOSIA, Cyprus - A rift is developing between the United States and Great Britain on how to confront Syrian President Bashar Assad and his uncompromising stand against Israel.

According to diplomats in the region, if the rift is allowed to grow, it may damage the cooperation between the two countries in Iraq.

Differences between Washington and Britain, its key ally in the war against Iraq, were accentuated by Tuesday's U.S. veto of the Syrian-proposed resolution in the U.N. Security Council against Israeli plans to expel Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.

Diplomats say Britain believes Syria should be included in the crippled U.S. "road map" to peace in the Middle East, particularly in view of Mr. Assad's recent economic-reform plans and some overtures toward his political opponents.

Washington regards Syria as a "rogue state," armed with weapon of mass destruction and offering safe haven to militant anti-Israeli organizations, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

Syria opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and statements by its senior officials have expressed doubt in the success of U.S. peacemaking efforts.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has accused Syria of facilitating the flight of some of Saddam Hussein's leading aides and of the transfer of a part of Iraq's arsenal across the Iraqi-Syrian border.

According to diplomatic sources, Britain has warned Washington it would not participate in any armed action against Syria. …

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