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April 12, 2003
 
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Syria Challenges U.S. Over Charges of Aiding Saddam

Reuters


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By Inal Ersan

DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara said on Saturday U.S. accusations that Damascus had helped Saddam Hussein's Iraq were baseless and challenged Washington to provide evidence.

Senior figures in President Bush's administration have accused Syria in recent weeks of providing military help to Saddam.

Shara said Syria was not taking seriously what he called "threats" from the Bush administration because "they do not represent the general view in the United States."

"These (threats and accusations) are based on allegations that are baseless," Shara told a joint news conference with visiting French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin.

"Sometimes (the Bush administration) don't know what they want... We say to them give us evidence," he said.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said the United States would hold Syria accountable for reported shipments of military equipment, including night vision goggles, to Iraq, calling them "hostile acts."

Shara said Syria's ties with Saddam's government were "not friendly for many years" and that Damascus wanted to have good relations "with the American people."

Syria, a staunch opponent of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, has warned repeatedly that the conflict would throw the region into chaos.

"We are victimized. I am telling you now, because (the Bush administration) failed they are trying to pinpoint at a third country, perhaps Syria or another country," said Shara.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Thursday Washington did not have a list of nations it plans to attack, as he tried to quell speculation that the United States may move on from Iraq to countries like Syria and Iran.

Villepin, who was in Damascus as the second stop on a four-nation tour of Arab states, repeated French calls for the United Nations to be given a major role in a postwar Iraq.

"One country can win a war but it takes many countries to install peace," said Villepin, who met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Copyright 2003 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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