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SYRIA TRYING TO STOP IRAQ BORDER CROSSING

Associated Press
December 21, 2003

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) - Syria is trying to stop fighters from crossing the border into Iraq to join the resistance against U.S.-led forces, the head of the Iraqi Governing Council said Sunday.

Speaking to reporters after talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad, council chairman Abdul Aziz al-Hakim said his administration planned to sign agreements with Syria to improve security along their long, desert border.

"There must be cooperation (between Syria and Iraq) in order to stop (militant) operations and prevent illegal infiltrators from crossing" into Iraq, he told a news conference.

"We are seeking, through the Iraqi Interior Ministry, to sign agreements to solve the security problem from which Syria is suffering as much as Iraq does," al-Hakim said. He did not say when an agreement with Syria would be signed.

Al-Hakim said Syria was "cooperating with us to stop the terrorist actions perpetrated by terrorist groups."

Syria, one of the staunchest opponents of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March, has been a vocal critic of the subsequent occupation.

Nevertheless, al-Hakim said: "Syria does not want Iraq to be unstable and ... it doesn't want operations in Iraq against the Iraqi people's interests."

Al-Hakim said his talks with Assad focused on ways to boost trade and security relations, including the stopping of militants infiltrating into Iraq. Syria has said opposes such border crossings but cannot stop everybody from crossing into Iraq.

Last week, President Bush signed the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act, which calls for economic sanctions to be imposed on Syria on various grounds. Among other things, the act accuses Syria of hosting Palestinian militant groups and not doing enough to stop militants and weapons from crossing the Iraqi border.

Al-Hakim, who arrived in Syria on Saturday night, left for Russia on Sunday. His visit was part of tour that has already taken him to Iran, Spain, France, Britain and the United Arab Emirates.



12/21/03 12:27 EST


Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.

 

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