— By Inal Ersan
DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Syria reaffirmed on Monday its backing for
fellow Arab Iraqis against what it said was a U.S.-led invasion to
control Iraqi oil, a day after Washington urged Damascus to stop
supporting the Iraqi government.
Secretary of State Colin Powell warned Damascus on Sunday it was
facing a critical choice and urged it to abandon its support for
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, accused by Washington of harboring
weapons of mass destruction.
"Syria chose to be with the international official and popular
consensus that says: 'No to the aggression against Iraq; No to the
bombing of cities and the killing of people'," a statement from the
Syrian Foreign Ministry said.
"Syria also chose to side with the brotherly Iraqi people who are
facing an illegitimate and unjustifiable invasion," said the
Syrian Vice President Zuheir Masharqa said the Arab world was
"witnessing the birth of a new era of legitimate resistance against
the strongest powers of evil and mischief," in an apparent reference
to the United States and Britain.
"Arab people's will to resist the occupying aggressors is
growing," the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) quoted
Masharqa as saying in a speech at a gathering of politicians in the
remote province of al-Raqqa.
He reiterated Damascus's view that the United States was seeking
"to control Iraq's oil and rearrange the region in a fashion that
serves its interests."
The Foreign Ministry said Powell's remarks proved that what "the
U.S. administration is doing in the region served Israel, its
interests and plans and satisfied (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel)
The Iraqi people were being subjected to "all sorts of crimes
against humanity," the ministry said, referring to the U.S.-led war
that began on March 20.
Both Iran and Syria came under fire from Washington on Friday for
their alleged involvement in Iraq.
Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara discussed the Iraqi issue
with his Iranian opposite number Kamal Kharrazi, SANA reported
without giving further details.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters the United
States would hold Syria accountable for reported shipments of
military equipment including night vision goggles to Iraq, calling
them "hostile acts."
Rumsfeld also said armed Iraqi Shi'ite Muslim forces supported by
Iran were inside Iraq and would be considered combatants if they
interfered with U.S. or British forces.
Syria and Iran both dismissed Rumsfeld's warnings.
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