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US asks Iran, Syria to stop 'infiltration'

August 08, 2004

DUBAI, Aug 7: US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage called in remarks published on Saturday on Iran and Syria to stop alleged infiltrations into Iraq, warning Damascus against failing to learn from the "lesson" of the ousting of the Baath party government in Baghdad.

"The accusations against Syria and Iran are linked to the infiltration of combatants across the borders and the lack of control along these borders in the required manner," Mr Armitage told a Saudi newspaper, Al Hayat.

"We are aware that the borders are very long between the countries ... (but) we expect more efforts to control them," he said.

Mr Armitage said the US-led forces were mainly facing "security challenges from rebel elements which are mostly former regime loyalists".

Both Syria and Iran - which have opposed the offensive and the continued occupation of Iraq by foreign troops - have been accused by the United States of supporting guerillas inside Iraq.

US President George Bush on May 11 slapped sanctions on Syria, on grounds that its own Baath government supported terrorism and failed to close its borders to guerillas looking to fight US forces in Iraq.

The sanctions, which come on top of existing US penalties, include a near-blanket ban on US exports to Syria and the power to freeze Syrian assets in the United States.

Mr Armitage said "the Syria Accountability Act ... comes in stages. The first stage comes through pressures, making demands clear and discussing them with the Syrian government".

"In case of a lack of commitment by this government, the policy of sanctions will be implemented and today, we are in the first phase," he said.

"The Syrian government did not show compliance. It did not learn from the lesson of Iraq and the fall of the Baath party there."-AFP