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NEWS - Clinton Removes Syria, Leban

Tuesday November 11 8:14 AM EST 

Clinton Removes Syria, Lebanon from Drug List

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Clinton says that he has dropped Syria
and Lebanon from the
annual U.S. list of major drug trafficking countries, eight months after
citing them as problem nations. 

The decision drew fire from Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, who
questioned how Clinton could
move so quickly to change Syria's designation. 

"From all accounts, Syria remains a major drug trafficker," said
Grassley, chairman of the Senate Caucus
on International Narcotics Control. 

In a letter to relevant members of Congress Monday, Clinton said he
removed Syria and Lebanon from
the list because they had jointly begun a campaign to eradicate about
8,400 acres of opium poppy
cultivation in the Bekaa Valley. 

"I have removed both countries from the majors list this year and have
placed them on the watch list, with
the understanding that they will be once again listed as major illicit
drug producers or transit countries,
should the evidence warrant," Clinton said. 

It was a victory for Syria, which has been on the list every year since
1992 based on what the United
States said was evidence that Syrian troops were protecting drug
cultivation and transportation. 

In theory the decision would open Syria up to U.S. aid and American
support for international loans to the
government of President Hafez al-Assad. But Syria remains on the U.S.
list of countries believed
responsible for international terrorism and thus still remains
ineligible for U.S. assistance. 

Just last March the State Department cited Syria as a major transit
country for hashish leaving Lebanon
and for opium and morphine entering Lebanon from Iran, Afghanistan and

Clinton was required to give his list of major drug trafficking
countries by Nov. 1 but missed the deadline
over what Grassley called an internal debate over Syria. 

The nations he did list as major drug trafficking countries were:
Afghanistan, Aruba, the Bahamas, Belize,
Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic,
Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti,
Hong Kong, India, Iran, Jamaica, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria,
Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru,
Taiwan, Thailand, Venezuela and Vietnam. 

On March 1 Clinton must list the countries officially certified as
helping the United States fight drug
trafficking. Governments that do not pass muster are cut off from most
U.S. aid and face Washington's
negative vote when they request loans from development institutions like
the World Bank. 

Foreign officials complain it is ironic that the United States, the
world's top drug-consuming nation, should
judge others.