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March 31, 2003
 
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Syria Repeats Opposition to U.S.-Led War on Iraq

Reuters


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March 31

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 statement.

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) Sharon."

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.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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