Damascus Silent About Border Incident

Syria maintained a strict silence Tuesday about a U.S. attack on an Iraqi convoy on its border that left Syrian guards wounded and in American hands. State-run media did not mention the clash even after news of it broke throughout the world.

The media silence suggested Syria's authoritarian government (search) was still deciding how to respond at a time when Damascus has been trying to avoid a confrontation that could further strain relations with Washington.

Syrian officials, when asked about the clash, refused to comment.

Since the attack a week ago, newspapers and television and radio stations have not reported on it — not even after U.S. officials made public Monday that Syrian border guards were mixed up in the clash.

In last Wednesday's operation, U.S. forces backed by warplanes attacked a convoy believed to be carrying leaders from Saddam Hussein's ousted regime fleeing to Syria. The shooting left bombed houses, burned-out vehicles and casualties from both sides of the border.

Americans may have pursued part of the convoy across the border into Syria, one U.S. official said.

At least five Syrian border guards were wounded — three of whom were later treated by U.S. forces. None of the Syrians had been returned to their government as of Tuesday, American officials said.

The total number killed in the operation was not available, although it did not appear to include Syrians, the officials said.

The clash could complicate U.S.-Syrian ties already tense over the U.S. occupation of Iraq and American efforts to revive the Israeli-Arab peace process.

Syria has shown itself eager to avoid confrontation. It has stressed it is a partner in the U.S.-led war on terror and last month closed the Damascus offices of Palestinian militant groups (search) accused by the United States of terrorism.

Earlier this year, U.S. officials accused Syria of providing Iraq with military equipment and harboring fleeing members of Saddam's regime.

American officials also alleged Syria was trying to stockpile weapons of mass destruction and allowing Arabs to cross its territory into Iraq to help Saddam's forces fight U.S. and British troops.

Syria denied all those accusations. But it also said it was difficult to stop people or goods from crossing its 310-mile desert border with Iraq.

The litany of U.S. accusations led to speculation that Washington saw Syria as the next military target after Iraq, but tensions eased after a May visit to Damascus by Secretary of State Colin Powell.