Syria number two terror sponsor, Gilmore Commission finds

Wednesday, January 8, 2003

Syria has been deemed the second biggest sponsor of terrorism in the world, a report commissioned by Congress says.

"After Iran, Syria is the most active state sponsor of terrorism and is included in the U.S. State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism," the annual Gilmore Commission report said. "Libya is another country that has a history of supporting terrorism and is known to possess chemical weapons."

The report said Syria is far more active than Iraq in its support for terrorist groups. Syria hosts a range of Arab, Islamic and Kurdish groups deemed as terrorists in Damascus, Middle East Newsline reported.

A report by the Gilmore Commission on the weapons of mass destruction capabilities that could be used against the United States classified Syria as the largest sponsor of terrorism after Iran. The commission's fourth annual report addresses the U.S. requirements to thwart any attack deemed as terrorist.

"Iraq provides sanctuary to a number of notorious anti-Israeli Arab nationalist groups but it is not nearly as active in its support as either Iran or Syria," the report said.

The report reflects growing sentiment in the House and Senate that the United States cannot advance in the war against terrorism without addressing Syria. Leading members of Congress said Syria harbors and supports the Lebanese-based Hizbullah, deemed as the most dangerous Islamic insurgency group in the world.

The commission has examined response capabilities at the federal, state, and local levels in the United States. The Rand Corp. has assisted in drafting the report and the commission's activities.

On Tuesday, Syria and the United States held what was termed an unofficial dialogue meant to improve bilateral relations. The dialogue, sponsored by the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, was held in Damascus with the participation of Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican and a leading member of Congress. A similar dialogue with leading Syrian diplomats took place last year in the Unite