Syria talks tough on Iraq
By Kim Ghattas BBC correspondent in Damascus
Syria has strongly denied channelling any military equipment to Iraq and accused the United States of trying justify the failures in the war against Iraq. All the country's state-controlled newspapers carried a foreign ministry statement rejecting the accusations by US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
"He only brings problems for his country and humanity at large," the foreign ministry said.
"It is an absolutely unfounded, irresponsible statement, just like his statements that brought his country and the allied countries into a terrible, unnecessary war on Iraq."
On Friday, Mr Rumsfeld said the US had information that military equipment, including night vision goggles, had passed through Syria to Iraq.
"We consider such trafficking as hostile acts and will hold the Syrian government accountable for such shipments," Mr Rumsfeld said.
His comments came one day after an interview with the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, was published in the Lebanese newspaper, as-Safir, in which he said it was a possibility that Syria would be next on Washington's list.
President Assad said he had warned Arab leaders at an Arab league meeting in Cairo that several Arab countries could be next.
"When I mention a number of Arab states, it is not logical to exclude Syria, which is the closest [to Iraq] and which has always been at the heart of the struggle against the invaders."
Mr Assad said there would be tough resistance against US troops in Iraq. "The United States may be able to occupy Iraq but it won't be able to control it," he said.
He warned the US would get bogged down in Iraq as it had in Vietnam, or would have to leave Iraq like it did Lebanon during the civil war, after a suicide attack on a US marine compound in Beirut which killed more than 200 troops.
"On positions where interests meet, the Americans are well with us," President Assad said.
"But on positions where interests differ, they want us to go along with them and we do not."
Certainly at the moment, the positions of Syria - the only Arab nation that is currently a member of the UN Security Council - and the US are very different and many analysts believe the two countries are on a collision course.
Syria has probably irked the US considerably by leading the opposition to the war on Iraq in the Arab world and doing so more and more actively.
During the Arab League summit in Cairo this month, Syria called on Arab countries not to lend any assistance to US troops in the region.
On Thursday, Syria's Grand mufti, Sheikh Ahmad Kaftaro called on Muslims to engage in a jihad against foreign troops in Iraq - a call that would not be issued without the tacit approval of the Syrian authorities.
Syria's ties with the US have been strained for a while.
Despite some co-operation between Damascus and Washington in the war against terrorism, Syria remains on the US State Department's list of terrorism-sponsoring states. Syria has refused to close down the Damascus offices of radical Palestinian groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad or withdraw its support for the Lebanese Hezbollah organisation.
The US views these groups as terrorist organisations, but Syria says they represent legitimate resistance against Israel.
However, the Syrian leadership's current position seems to have earned it the admiration of its people.
During anti-war demonstrations, more protesters in Damascus have been holding up pictures of the Syrian president than waving Iraqi flags.
And if other Arab leaders are being called traitors by the protesters, Bashar el Assad is an Arab hero.
"Our president is the conscience of the Arab world, he is the defender of the Arab nation, we trust only him to fight for our interests," said school teacher Thaer Abdulhamid during a recent protest on the streets of the Syrian capital.
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