US warns Syria over Iraq
United States Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
has once again attacked Syria, this time accusing it of helping Saddam
Hussein's key supporters escape Iraq.
He said the US has "scraps of intelligence" Damascus is helping some
Iraqis move to Syria, from where a number are moving on to other places.
On Wednesday, Mr Rumsfeld also repeated earlier charges that Syria had
facilitated the movement of military equipment and people into Iraq to help
fight US and British forces.
Syria, along with Iran, has recently been warned by the US Government not
to get involved in the current Iraq conflict.
These latest comments could be seen as further US efforts to keep other
Middle East countries in check and shape the region when the war in Iraq
Mr Rumsfeld said: "We are getting scraps of intelligence saying that
Syria has been co-operative in facilitating the move of the people out of
Iraq and into Syria."
Mr Rumsfeld said he did not know where Saddam himself is currently hiding.
But he added: "He's not active. Therefore he's either dead or he's
incapacitated, or he's healthy and cowering in some tunnel some place trying
to avoid being caught."
Syria, Iraq's western neighbour, continues to supply Iraq with military
equipment, the defence secretary also said, repeating a claim he made last
"We consider such trafficking as hostile acts and will hold the Syrian
Government accountable for such shipments," he said previously.
Syria, led by President Bashar al-Assad, has denied it delivered night
vision goggles and other equipment to Iraq.
Commenting on Wednesday's developments in Baghdad, Mr Rumsfeld said the
end of Saddam's regime was near at hand.
In language more colourful than that used by the White House earlier in
the day, he said: "Saddam Hussein is now taking his rightful place alongside
Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Ceausescu in the pantheon of failed, brutal dictators."
He also offered rewards to Iraqis who come forward with information on
chemical and biological weapons and on alleged atrocities committed by
The latest outburst from Mr Rumsfeld comes at a time when Syria's ties
with the US have been strained.
Syria has probably irked the US considerably by leading the opposition to
the war on Iraq in the Arab world, says BBC correspondent in Damascus Kim
President Assad previously warned regional leaders at an Arab League
meeting in Cairo that several Arab countries could be next on Washington's
hit list, and Syria could not be excluded.
Wednesday, 9 April, 2003, 22:30 GMT 23:30 UK