US again criticises Syria and Iran

31 March 2003
The Bush administration reiterated its warning to Syria and Iran to end support for Iraq and for terrorism on 30 March, days after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told both countries not to interfere in the war. Addressing the US' most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Secretary of State Colin Powell said: 'Syria has the responsibility for its choices and for the consequences.' He accused Iran of support for terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction, and called on 'the entire international community to insist that Iran end its support for terrorism'. Washington has repeatedly expressed its suspicion that Tehran's nuclear programme is aimed at the production of weapons rather than being for civilian purposes.

Both countries have reacted angrily to the US accusations. On 30 March, the Syrian Foreign Ministry issued a statement in the local press refuting Rumsfeld's allegations of smuggling weapons to Iraq and accusing the US of trying to blame others for its failures in the war so far. 'It is an absolutely unfounded, irresponsible statement, just like his statements that brought his country and the allied countries into a terrible, unnecessary war on Iraq,' it said. Rumsfeld had warned: 'We consider such [weapons] trafficking as hostile acts and will hold the Syrian government accountable for such shipments.' Syria has been one of the most outspoken of the Arab nations in opposing the war on Iraq, and on 27 March the Grand Mufti, Ahmad Kaftaro, urged Muslims to wage jihad against foreign troops in Iraq. Iran denied claims that the Tehran-based Iraqi Shia opposition had been allowed to cross into Iraq with the intention of getting involved in the war. Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said that the Badr brigades did not want to interfere in the fighting.

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