WASHINGTON - Now that Saddam Hussein has been removed from power in Iraq, a new military issue is dividing Democrats running for president, how to deal with Syria.
President Bush warned Syria on Sunday about harboring Iraqi leaders and accused Damascus of keeping chemical weapons, but he did not go as far as to threaten military action.
Presidential candidate Bob Graham, a Florida senator who voted against the resolution authorizing force against Iraq, suggested military action against Syria might be necessary.
"We threw a few cruise missiles into the terrorist training camps in Afghanistan ... that's what we may have to do in Syria," he told the Orlando Sentinel after an appearance during the weekend in his home state.
On the other end is peace candidate Dennis Kucinich, a congressman from Ohio, who said threatening action against Syria could fuel speculation that the Bush Administration is seeking to build an empire in the Middle East.
"It appears that the administration is using the same rhetoric and political posturing that led to the unjustified war against Iraq," he said in a statement issued Monday. "Our nation cannot afford this dangerous and aggressive foreign policy. On the heels of war with Iraq, the administration's posturing appears to be putting the United States on a path to war with Syria."
Jano Cabrera, spokesman for Joe Lieberman, said the Connecticut senator would like to see the United States pursue "aggressive diplomacy."
"In a lot of ways the successful war has given us leverage to urge countries like Syria who have harbored terrorists to stop and to talk to them aggressively about doing so," he said.
Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt said the United States' first goal should be to rebuild Iraq, and it's important to try to solve problems with Syria through diplomacy.
"The Syrian government must refrain from harboring Iraqi fugitives, hiding any of Saddam Hussein's weapons or engaging in any terrorist activities," Gephardt said in a written statement. "I agree with the Secretary of State that this problem can be dealt with diplomatically and that Syria runs the risk of having economic and diplomatic sanctions levied against it if it doesn't act responsibly."
Kerry said he could not fully evaluate the situation because he had not been briefed about Syria in the last couple of weeks.
"I'd have to have further briefing before I make any judgment about what is directly linked to this initiative versus what is part of the ongoing problem with Syria," he said. "I think there is a distinction between the two."
Copyright 2003 The Associated Press