WASHINGTON – With Syria under fire for helping Saddam Hussein's regime, President Bush weighed in publicly Friday, saying Iraq's neighbor needs to refuse refuge to Saddam loyalists.
"We strongly urge them not to allow for Baath Party members or Saddam's families or generals on the run to seek safe haven and find safe haven there," Bush said during a question and answer session following a visit with wounded Marines and sailors.
U.S. military forces continue working to cut off traffic between Iraq and Syria, a country Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has repeatedly accused of helping Saddam's regime.
Intelligence reports indicate that throughout Syria and in Lahdiqiyah, in particular, Iraqi VIPs, including Saddam's first wife and daughters, have been spotted under Syrian protection.
Syria also has been accused of supplying Saddam's fighters with night-vision goggles and even the Kornet anti-tank missile system. It has also been cited for encouraging suicide bombers to cross into Iraq to kill American military troops seeking to liberate the country.
Syria claims it closed its borders this week. Rumsfeld said Friday that is not the case.
"Are there people still moving out of the country into Syria? Yes," he said.
Syria's deputy ambassador to the United States denied everything Thursday during an interview on Fox News with Greta Van Susteren. He tried to cast Syria as the victim.
"We really are feeling hurt in Syria with these non-stop accusations," said Ambassador Imad Moustafa.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told lawmakers Thursday that if Syria does not fall into line, then Congress and the president will have to consider additional steps.
"If they continue, then we need to think about what our policy is with respect to a country that harbors terrorists," Wolfowitz said.
By Friday morning, a bipartisan group of lawmakers was talking tough.
"It's a country that really should be the focus of this administration and this Congress and obviously the world at large," said Rep. Robert Matsui, D-Calif.
The biggest concern is unconfirmed reports that Syria was helping Saddam hide his weapons of mass destruction.
"It has also been widely reported that Iraq is using Syria to hide forbidden long-range, surface-to-surface and chemical and biological weapons," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.
Syria has long been on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism. Lawmakers now say it should be added to the "axis of evil."
Fox News' Carl Cameron contributed to this report.