US warns Syria over role in Iraq

Published September 13, 2005

WASHINGTON, Sept 12: The US ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, fired a strong warning to Syria on Monday over help that Washington accuses Damascus of giving to radical groups in Iraq.

“Our patience is running out with Syria,” Mr Khalilzad said at a press conference. When asked how the United States could respond, he said ‘all options are on the table’, including military.

“I would not like to elaborate more, they should understand what I mean,” he added.

The US believes that Iraqi Sunnis are refusing to agree a proposed constitution because of threats from Sunni extremists who have infiltrated Iraq from Syria, where they have training camps, Mr Khalilzad alleged.

“Syria has to decide what price it’s willing to pay in making Iraq success difficult. And time is running out for Damascus to decide on this issue,” the ambassador warned.

“It simply must close the training camps,” he said. “It should not allow youngsters misguided by Al Qaeda, from Saudi Arabia, from Yemen, from North Africa, to fly into Damascus international airport.”

“It shouldn’t be that hard, if you see young men between the ages of 18 and 28, who are coming without a return ticket, landing in Damascus airport to control that.”

The former US ambassador to Kabul also warned that Iraq could become worse that Afghanistan, under the Taliban, if extremists like Abu Musab al Zarqawi, Al Qaeda’s man in Iraq, were to prevail. “If people like Zarqawi were to dominate Iraq, it will make Afghanistan under the Taliban look like a picnic, given the resources of Iraq, the location of Iraq,” Mr Khalilzad said.—AFP

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