Bush, aides consider what to do about Syria
White House looking at military action or sanctions to stop flow of insurgents into Iraq



WASHINGTON -- President Bush and his top aides are weighing new steps against Syria, according to U.S. officials involved in Middle East policy.

Bush's national security team met Saturday to review the policy toward Syria, the officials said. Options range from tougher economic sanctions to limited military action. One official involved in the deliberations said military action is unlikely for now.

However, one option under consideration was bombing several villages 30 to 40 miles inside Syria that some officials believe have been harboring Iraqi insurgents. The officials said the U.S. government has complained to the Syrian government about the matter but has not received a satisfactory response.

One other official, however, said military and other intelligence officers say the intelligence on the insurgents' presence in the villages is "not unambiguous." They said it is not clear whether the insurgents are present as a matter of Syrian government policy or local or tribal hospitality, or simply because insurgents have intimidated villagers.

The proposal to take military action, the officials said, reflects the military's increasing frustration with its inability to defeat the insurgency and stop the flow of foreign terrorists into Iraq.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plans are highly classified and no decisions had yet been made on whether to adopt them. It wasn't clear whether they were speaking publicly of possible action in an effort to put more pressure on the Syrian government to crack down on insurgent activity along the border.

The White House declined to comment Saturday when asked about the meeting.

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