Syria’s foreign minister denies it is aiding insurgents in Iraq |

Syria’s foreign minister denies it is aiding insurgents in Iraq

Associated Press

DAMASCUS, Syria – Syria is responding with a mixture of bravado and denial to mounting accusations by the United States and Iraq that it’s a staging ground for the Iraqi insurgency with key support coming from a half brother of Saddam Hussein and Baath Party leaders here.

Damascus has accused Washington of making it a scapegoat for U.S. failures to quell Iraq fighting – even as Syria moves to try and defuse tensions with the United States.

Syria’s Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa struck a defiant tone in an address at the annual meeting of leaders of the National Progressive Front – the country’s highest ruling body – in the most extensive comments yet by a senior Syrian official on the subject.

“They accuse Syria of sending money and arms,” he said, but the Iraqi people “have plenty of money and arms and we are the ones who worry about the movement of arms from Iraq to Syria.”

The United States succeeded in occupying Iraq, “but it has failed at everything else,” Al-Sharaa said Monday. “The problem is that the United States had thought it was making progress in Iraq. But it started to see a change in the past two months and therefore the campaign against Syria comes within the framework of the pressure the occupation forces in Iraq feel.”

President Bush has warned Syria and Iran that “meddling in the internal affairs of Iraq is not in their interest.”