Bush demands Syria leave Lebanon

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LONDON (AP) – The Bush administration is applying its strongest pressure to date on Syria, insisting on an immediate withdrawal from neighboring Lebanon and blaming terrorists based in Syria for last week’s deadly suicide attack in Israel.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Syria is “out of step” with growing desire for democracy in the Middle East. International resolve is firm that Syria must no longer hold political and military control over its smaller neighbor, Rice said Tuesday.

Rice was in London for an international conference on Palestinian security and government reform, which the Bush administration has called a building block for wider democratic change in the region.

On the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, Rice indicated that the administration was working with European leaders on a plan to offer Iran economic incentives in exchange for abandoning its nuclear ambitions. The United States has accused Iran of developing nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies.

“We are designing, I think, an important common strategy with Europe so that Iran knows there is no other way,” Rice said in a brief interview aired Wednesday on NBC’s “Today” show.

Until recently, the Bush administration has opposed any rewards for Tehran’s cooperation. But during the president’s trip overseas last week, European leaders urged him to join them in offering incentives such as possible membership at some time for Iran in the World Trade Organization.

While in London, Rice also met briefly with Canada’s foreign minister and “explained her disappointment” over Canada’s refusal to join a U.S.-led anti-ballistic missile shield program, an administration official said Tuesday.

She was returning to Washington on Wednesday.

Rice has put off a planned April visit to Ottawa amid U.S. displeasure over the Canadian decision. The administration said Rice wants to reschedule quickly, but no new date has been set.