UNITED NATIONS (Reuters)-The United States and Syria locked horns on Tuesday, with Washington urging others to join it in imposing sanctions on Damascus and Syria telling America to stop trying to impose its will on Arabs.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem told the United Nations General Assembly that the world pays the price when the U.S. government thinks it knows what Arabs want better than the Arabs themselves.
Washington has long listed Syria as a “state sponsor of terrorism” and relations have worsened with the United States accusing Syria of helping to fuel the insurgency in Iraq. Damascus denies both charges.
In May 2004, Washington banned U.S. exports to Syria other than food and medicine, severed banking relations with the Commercial Bank of Syria and barred Syrian flights to and from the United States.
“What we’d really like to do is we’d like to get some others to join us in other kinds of sanctions,” U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told The Wall Street Journal according to a State Department transcript released on Tuesday.
Washington also recalled its ambassador to Damascus after the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. Damascus denies any involvement.
“I think as Syria continues to show its stripes and isolate itself from its Arab friends, that may be somewhat easier to do,” Rice said. “We’re going to have to look at tougher measures if Syria continues to be on the path that it’s on.”
She gave no details on what sanctions the United States might want to impose. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters: “We have a variety of measures that are available to us.” He did not elaborate.
Rice met world leaders for more than week on the sidelines of the General Assembly.
In his U.N. speech, Rice’s Syrian counterpart said it was essential that the United States and other countries draw up a schedule for withdrawing from Iraq. He insisted it would help curb the violence there.
“Tragically enough, we all end up paying the price when the decision makers in Washington believe that they know better, and are in a better position to understand and grasp the needs and circumstances of the Arabs,” Moualem said.
“They diagnose the ambitions and aspirations of the Arab individual in a manner that is tailored to their own vision.”
Moualem assailed the United States for its support of Israel and other policies in the Middle East, saying the flow of U.S. weapons to Israel was sowing destruction. He also criticized those who finance and support what he called the injustices of the Israeli occupation of Arab territories.
“The Palestinians are subjected to a crippling blockade because the advocates of democracy were dissatisfied with the results of the elections in the Palestinian territories,” Moualem said.
Washington and the European Union have imposed financial sanctions on the Hamas-led Palestinian government since it came to power in March because the Islamic movement refuses to recognize Israel, halt violence or honor peace deals with Israel.
Citing the U.N. Security Council resolution governing the August 14 cease-fire that ended 34 days of war between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, Moualem said Syria had adopted the “necessary measures” to control its borders with Lebanon.
But he did not specifically mention arms which over the years have gone to the Hezbollah militia across the Syrian border. The Security Council resolution placed an embargo on arms reaching anyone in Lebanon but the national army.