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S. 2194 (Arafat Accountability Act). S. 2194 would deny a visa to Chairman Arafat, downgrade the PLO Office, restrict travel of the PLO's senior representative in New York, and freeze PLO, PA and Arafat assets in the United States.
We certainly share the Senate's concerns about the Palestinian Authority's failure to end violence and terror, and appreciate the support and confidence that has been expressed for Secretary Powell's efforts. However, we object to the bill's unqualified requirement that the President determine compliance and undertake sanctions when the PA/PLO are found to be in violation of their 1993 Oslo commitments. Presently, the Department. submits semi-annual PLO Compliance (PLOCCA) Reports in accordance with Title VIII of Public Law 101-246. The last two PLOCCA Reports assessed Palestinian compliance with their Oslo commitments. Additionally, Section 566 of PL 107-115, the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act, F'Y 2002, provides that the President "should" submit a report assessing the steps that the PLO or PA has "substantially complied" with these commitments. The hortatory language contained in Section 566 not only provides flexibility in making that determination but provides the President and Secretary the opportunity to attempt to address the Middle East crisis without prejudice. S. 2194 would eliminate that flexibility on the part of the President and the Secretary and would further complicate our efforts to reach a settlement. At this stage, it is very important that the Administration have the maximum flexibility to deal with both sides in the conflict. This legislation would restrict our ability to carry out this vital diplomatic mission, and for this reason, we do not support such as measure at this time.
s. 2215/8.R. 4483 (Syria Accountability Act). S. 2215 and H.R. 4483 have as their purpose to halt Syrian support for terrorism, stop its development of weapons of mass destruction, cease its importation of Iraqi oil, and to hold Syria accountable for the international security problems its actions have caused.
We are in full agreement with the goals underlying this bill. No one is more concerned about Syria's support for terrorism than the President. These concerns are a matter of record and are why Syria is designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and subject to numerous sanctions. We also put a high priority on ending Syria's illicit imports from Irag, ending proliferation of WMD, particularly to state sponsors of terrorism, and seeing an independent Lebanon that is free of all foreign forces and exercises sovereignty over its territory.
At issue is what approach most effectively serves the wide range of u.s. interests in the region, including a very important priority - security of our close friend, Israel. The President and the Secretary are in the middle of an extremely sensitive effort to bring down the violence, avoid the outbreak of regional war, and help the parties back on a path to comprehensive peace.
If our efforts on both comprehensive peace and the war against terrorism are to succeed, the President and the Secretary will need flexibility to determine what combination of incentives and disincentives will maximize cooperation and advance our goals.
For this reason, we do not believe this is the right time for legislative initiatives that could complicate or even undermine our efforts. The imposition of new sanctions on Syria would place at risk our ability to address a range of important issues directly with the Syrian government and render more difficult our efforts to change Syrian behavior and avoid a dangerous escalation. For the moment, we believe that carefully calibrated engagement, combined with the numerous sanctions in place, will be more effective to advance our goals of comprehensive peace, regional security, and containment of Iraq. - 2
In addition, the President has taken note of Syria's cooperation on al-Qaida. Syria's cooperation in this regard has been substantial and has helped save American lives, and for that reason directly serves U.$. interests. At the same time, the President and the Secretary, most recently during his visit to Damascus, have made clear that more is expected of Syria, and that Syria's support and safe haven for terrorist groups must end.
For this reason, we ask that your Committee work to strengthen the hand of the President and Secretary as they seek to lead the region away from violence and towards peace, and not move forward on this bill at this time.
Lebanonwire.com | Syria has allowed hundreds of Qaida men to settle in Lebanon
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Damascus has allowed some 150-200 Qaida operatives to settle in the Palestinian refugee camp Ein Hinwe near Sidon in Lebanon. The group, including senlor commanders, arrived from Afghanistan through Damascus, Iran and directly to Lebanon. These Qaida operatives are responsible, among other things, for the latest outbreak of fighting inside the refugee camp, as part of their effort to take over the camp. These details and others have lately been gathered by various intelligence services. Among the new details now known: Mohammed Atta, the leader of the Qaida group that conducted the Sept. 11 airplane suicide attacks on the Twin Towers in New York, flying the first plane into the towers, visited Syria twice or three times. The Syrians did not give that information to the Americans on their own volition. Osama bin Laden's son, Omar, left Syrla together with his mother Nagwa, three weeks before the attack on the Twin Towers, after receiving anonymous instructions to do so. The son returned to Syria after 9-11, and has since visited twice more. Bin Laden's wife and son lived in the Alawite stronghold in Latakiya in an arrangement that gave refuge to bin Laden's close relatives. The two are not now in Syria. Intelligence services have also managed to find detailed information about contacts between one of the leading Hezbollah military figures, Imad Mourghniyeh, and a Qaida operative in Sudan. There is no evidence yet of that relationship developing into continuing ties, but there is no doubt the meeting could not have taken place without Syrian intelligence knowing of it. Syrian prevarications Much evidence now shows that before 9-11. Syria was a stomping ground for Qaida operatives, considered a place where they could move around in relative freedom. The country served as transit point for them and Qaida had an intrastructure there. They were able to operate with relatively few of the restrictions that other Arab countries, like Egypt, put on them. After 9-11, the Syrians initially believed there would be no significant change in the geopolitical developments. Syrian President Bashar Assad told a Lebanese newspaper that "there is no sign that there has been any great change since September 11." He said that there are ways" to stand up to the military and technological superiority of others. For example, the U.S. "has the most power, the best technology, and the strongest mechanisms, but it has not been able to provide security in its cities because force is not a necessary condition for providing security and stability." Therefore, sald Assad, "the current developments require serious judgment and sticking to basic principles. Following September 11, everything must be examined with better judgment especially when discussing the ramifications of what happened to our region." Shortly afterward, as American rage grew and the attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan began, the Syrians changed position, and said they were ready for intelligence cooperation with the U.S. on the Qaida issue. But there are now clear indications that it was tactical and only partial cooperation. Readiness for cooperation mostly came via information about Qalda cells in other countries and not what Qaida representatives were doing in Syria. Important information came from Syria, for example, on Qaida cells in Germany. That apparently is what kept Syria off President George W. Bush's "axis of evil list. Most of the Syrian information about Qalda activities in Germany came from the interrogation of a German citizen of Syrian descent, Mohammed Haider Zemer. He was questioned by Syrian intelligence before 9-11, and the Syrians were ready to hand him over to the Germans, who were not interested at the time. But the Germans changed their minds after 9-11, after the Americans gave them the information provided by the Syrians, which led to intormation about Qaida operatives in Hamburg and elsewhere in Germany, including Information about Mohammed Atta. The Germans then asked the Syrians to extradite Zemer so they could
Lebanonwire.com | Syria has allowed hundreds of Qaida men to settle in Lebanon
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continue questioning him and put him on trial, but the Syrians refused, and refuse to do so to this day. Meanwhile, Zemer's passport was found in an apartment in Afghanistan that belonged to a senior Qaida commander.
Another link between Qaida and Syria can be found in the arrest in Spain of three Syrians. One says that Mohammed Atta met with another of the three in Spain. The three were found with videotapes of various possible targets in America, and they apparently served as an intelligence gathering cell for Atta before 9-11. One of those arrested, Mohammed Hirel Sak, is an Alawite. Another, Abarash Kallyon, has been identified as a former member of the Islamic Brotherhood in Syria. The third, Abdel Rahman Arnot, has admitted he had links to the commander of the Qaida training camps of western Afghanistan. It is also known that Atta's phone number was found in the apartment of one of the Syrians arrested in Spain. Meanwhile, the Syrians repeatedly changed their position since 9-11. Nowadays, they appear to be deliberately turning a blind eye to Qaida activity, particularly in Lebanon. A key question so far unanswered is what Atta was doing on his visits to Syria, and whom he met. It's known that he was in Aleppo in northern Syria, but it is not known whom he met. He was in Syria at least twice and possibly three times. The change in Syrian attitudes can be seen in the permission they gave to Qaica men on the run from Afghanistan to find refuge in Lebanon, which is under control of the Syrian army and intelligence. After the defeat of the Taliban, Qaida began fieeing Afghanistan, heading home. Chechnyans, for example, used Turkey as a way station on their way home. Palestinians, Jordanians
and Jordanians of Palestinian descent, as well as a few Lebanese, headed back to Lebanon. The Syrians arrested some of them for interrogation and it is known that mostly the Qaida have gone to Ein Hilwe. The Ein Hilwe battles last month were initiated by the Qaida men there, with three of them killed in the fighting. The fight for control over the camp is not over. Meanwhile, the Qaida there, led by commanders from Afghanistan, is establishing a local infrastructure. One bit of intelligence says they are interested in getting material for chemical weapons. The gun-battle in the refugee camp was angrily condemned by Lebanese. A Nahar editor Jibran Tuwany wrote on August 15, that "what is happening now in Éin Hilwe camp could become a tuming point on the way to the establishment of a state within a state, which would mean a siege of Lebanon and Lebanese territory still in control of the state. "There are fears that Lebanon will become an isolated island because of all the endaves created by the Palestinian camps from south to north, through the Bekaa and Beirut. The danger is in all these enclaves managing to connect to one another. What happened in Ein Hilwe is a real war ... reminiscent of the war of 1975," Tuwany wrote. Very little is known about the connection between Qaida and the Hezbollah and there is no certainty those contacts were developed. The first evidence came in testimony by Al Rahman Mohammed, who was arrested after the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. He said he knows a Hezbollah official met 1996 in Sudan with someone later identified as a Qaida representative. The mediator for the meeting was a Sudanese sheikh named Ali Numeini. Bin Laden had extensive activity in the country at the time, as did Iranian intelligence. The intelligence reports say that the initiative for the meeting came from Qaida, whose leaders were impressed by Hezbollah attacks on foreign embassies in Lebanon and Argentina.