Annan Concerned by Growing U.S. Criticism of Syria
By Irwin Arieff
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters - 14 April) - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is concerned that growing U.S. criticism of Syria and its role in the U.S.-led war on Iraq could further destabilize the shaky Middle East, a spokesman said on Monday.
The statement came after Washington, capping a series of accusations against Syria in recent days, threatened sanctions over its charges that Damascus was harboring fleeing Iraqi leaders, developing chemical weapons and supporting terrorism.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said in Washington on Monday that the Bush administration would "examine possible measures of a diplomatic, economic or other nature" against Syria.
"Syria is indeed a rogue nation," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, calling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad an untested leader who now had a chance "to be a leader who makes the right decisions."
The U.N. spokesman said: "The secretary-general is concerned that recent statements directed at Syria should not contribute to a wider destabilization in a region already affected heavily by the war in Iraq."
Annan "reiterates his strongly held view that any claim of threats to international peace and security should be addressed in conformity with the provisions of the (U.N.) Charter," the spokesman said.
Under the charter, the U.N. Security Council is the body charged with enforcing international peace and security.
The United States and Britain infuriated most U.N. members by launching war against Baghdad without first obtaining U.N. authorization in the form of a Security Council resolution.
The U.N. spokesman said the secretary-general welcomed recent "clarifications" concerning the accusations against Syria.
A U.N. official said this was a reference to recent statements from British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw that the United States and Britain had no plans to invade Syria.
Straw, trying to build bridges between Syria and the United States, said Syria was not next in line to be attacked after the war on Iraq had ended.
Damascus had important questions to answer about its own weapons programs. But "as far as 'Syria on the list', we made clear that it is not," Straw told a news conference in Kuwait. "There is no next list."
Responding to the U.S. accusations, Syria has denied cooperating with the Iraqi government or having chemical weapons.