Syria supports Iraqi people

SYRIA said yesterday it had chosen to support the Iraqi people against the “illegal” US-British invasion of Iraq, following a new warning against Damascus from US Secretary of State Colin Powell.

“Syria has chosen to align itself with the brotherly Iraqi people who are facing an illegal and unjustified invasion and against whom are being committed all sorts of crimes against humanity,” said a foreign ministry spokesman.

In the latest shot in the growing war of words between the two countries over Iraq, Powell said Sunday that “Syria now faces a critical choice. Syria can continue direct support for terrorist groups and the dying regime of Saddam Hussein, or it can embark on a different and more hopeful course.

“Either way, Syria bears the responsibility for its choices, and for the consequences.”

Powell, who also warned Iran, said that, as part of its “overall strategy in combating terrorism,” Washington was “demanding more responsible behaviour” from “states that do not follow acceptable patterns of behaviour.”

Washington considers Syria and Iran state sponsors of terrorism and, though Syria is not included with Iran, Iraq and North Korea on President George W. Bush’s “axis of evil”, it fears it is already being lined up for US attention after Iraq. The Syrian spokesman said Powell, “like the whole world, knows that Syria has chosen to be with international legitimacy represented by the United Nations and the Security Council whose role its to preserve world peace and security.”

Syria, one of the rotating non-permanent members of the Security Council, “has chosen to be with the international consensus which has said No to aggression against Iraq, the bombardments of cities, the massacre of innocent civilians, the destruction of houses, power plants and water stations,” the statement went on.

Noting that Powell was speaking to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), it said he was clearly “affirming that all the actions of the US administration in the region serve Israeli interests and plans and satisfy Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister.”

Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shara told parliament at the weekend that “Syria’s interest is to see the invaders defeated in Iraq,” said yesterday’s official press. “The resistance of the Iraqis is extremely important. It is an heroic resistance to the US-British occupation of their country.”

Shara said Washington justified its attack on Iraq as a war of “liberation and preservation of democracy and human rights, while it is killing and destroying.”

US and British troops “have been shocked by the welcome from the Iraqis, who have not received them with flowers but protests against their deceitful slogans and a fierce resistance,” he added.

US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Friday that “we have information of shipments of military supplies crossing the border from Syria into Iraq.” The deliveries, which he said included night vision goggles, “pose a direct threat to the lives of coalition forces”: “We consider such trafficking as hostile acts and will hold the Syrian government accountable.”

He declined to say whether the Syrian government was behind the shipments, but stressed: “They control their border. We’re hopeful that kind of thing does not happen again.

“There is no question but that to the extent military supplies, equipment or people move across borders between Iraq and Syria that it vastly complicates our situation.”

Earlier Friday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Assad said in an interview with a Lebanese newspaper that he hoped US forces would fail to oust Saddam and predicted that, if they were to conquer Iraq, “popular resistance” would prevent them from controlling it.

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