WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential candidate Bob Graham said Thursday that the United States must pressure Syria to stop Hezbollah from operating terrorist training camps there or make it clear to President Bashar Assad that there will be consequences.
Graham, who earlier this month suggested that it might be necessary to throw "a few cruise missiles" into Syria, did not provide specifics on what the consequences would be.
"My approach to this problem would be to give President Assad an opportunity to eliminate these terrorist training camps in territory controlled by his government," the Florida senator said in prepared remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations. "If he fails to act, we should consult with our allies in the global coalition against terrorism - a coalition that needs to be rebuilt after the Iraq war - and decide the next step."
The Bush administration plans to send Secretary of State Colin Powell to Syria to talk to officials about terrorism and Iraq.
Graham, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the United States must not make the same mistake with Hezbollah that it made with Al Qaeda prior to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"Hezbollah is a more capable organization than Al Qaeda, with a state supporter - Iran - that possesses weapons of mass destruction and a track record of attacking Americans and American interests," Graham said.
In February, FBI Director Robert Mueller told Congress that Islamic extremist groups, such as Hezbollah, appear most interested in continuing their U.S.-based fund-raising networks rather than using violence.
Graham said Hezbollah has a "significant number of operatives" in the United States who are prepared to undertake terrorist acts if instructed.
"I cannot be more specific on the number, except to say that it is a significant presence," he said.