Statement of Hon. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Press Conference on the Introduction of the Lebanon and Syria Liberation Act
From: Toni Haddad- LACD - USA 9/3/05:
We are here today to reiterate our strong support for the Lebanese people who are repudiating the Syrian occupation and demanding a restoration of their sovereignty, as well as to underscore our support for the Syrian people as they undertake efforts to bring freedom to their nation.
It is illustrative of the need for this legislation that on this very day, forty-two years ago, the Baath party seized power in Syria, and that today, Syria’s proxy, Hezbollah, will be demonstrating in Beirut in support of Syria’s continuing brutal occupation of Lebanon.
Syria has had a pernicious impact on Lebanon by converting this beautiful country, not just into a captive nation, but into a sanctuary for terrorists like Hezbollah, who have killed hundreds of Americans in terrorist attacks, and have been and continue to be involved in attacks against us, our allies and interests in the region and throughout the world—even in our own Hemisphere.
Through the introduction of the Lebanon and Syria Liberation Act (LASLA), or as I like to refer to it, LA-SYRIA-LA, which means “No Syria No” in Arabic, we seek to intensify the pressure on the Syrian regime to
· immediately and unconditionally withdraw from all of Lebanon—not just to the Bekaa valley;
· to cease its pursuit of more deadly weapons; and
· to stop its support for terrorism, including its assistance to terrorists in Iraq that are killing Iraqis, Americans, and so many others there.
LASLA seeks to deny the Syrian regime the resources and technology to engage in such unacceptable behavior and to, at the very least, contain the Syrian threat.
The Lebanon and Syria Liberation Act offers the Administration the right mechanism to compel the Syrian government to change its ways.
In addition to strengthening existing sanctions that are required as a result of Syria’s terrorism designation, the bill calls for
· a series of sanctions on foreign entities and
· a separate set of punitive measures on foreign governments that assist Syria's proliferation activities.
It calls for a series of diplomatic efforts bilaterally, and through the United Nations Security Council, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, and in other international forums, to press the Syrian regime to immediately halt its destructive policies.
This Act calls for the establishment of a U.S.-Middle East regional contact group to discuss and develop coordinated strategies to address the threat posed by Syria's sponsorship of terror and its pursuit of unconventional weapons.
Behavioral change in Damascus will come about only through a sustained U.S.-led bilateral and multilateral effort to weaken the regime’s ability to engage in its threatening practices, while simultaneously assisting:
· on the one hand, independent civil society in Lebanon to promote the emergence of a freely elected, internationally recognized democratic government in Lebanon and
· on the other, assisting Syrian dissidents and pro-democracy advocates, to promote the emergence of a freely-elected Syrian government not compromised by terror; that does not engage in proliferation; that upholds the rights of its people; and that respects the boundaries and sovereignty of its neighbors.
This is what the new bill seeks to accomplish by authorizing assistance that would also include support for independent broadcasts into both countries.
This legislation converts policy into action. It sends a clear message to those who sponsor terror and are involved in acquiring or developing deadly unconventional weapons that there is a price to pay; that they will “be held accountable.”
It also sends a clear signal to the Syrian dictator and to his Lebanese accomplices that it is futile to resist the spread of freedom and democracy in the Middle East.
Ultimately, LASLA says: “no more.” We will not stand for the Syrian regime’s oppression of its people; enslavement of Lebanon; its support for terrorism; and its proliferation efforts.
The U.S. Congress and the world is watching and we will not tolerate any actions by Syria or its proxies against the Lebanese people as they exercise their fundamental rights of freedom of speech and association.
In closing, I would like to thank the Lebanese American Council for Democracy for their ongoing efforts on behalf of their brothers and sisters in Lebanon.
Their dedication and commitment for decades were instrumental in securing the passage of the Syria and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act last year and in moving resolutions and other legislation this Congress.
Tony, a million thanks to you and to all the freedom-loving Lebanese Americans that your group represents.