BEIRUT, Lebanon – The Syrian foreign ministry (search) called on the United States to pull its troops out of Iraq, saying their presence has led to chaos and terrorism, according to remarks published Wednesday.
There was no terrorism problem in Iraq when the United States entered the country, a spokeswoman for Syria's foreign ministry said in an interview with the London-based Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.
"Now, there is the problem of terrorism and of Al Qaeda (search)," Bushra Kanafani said in published remarks.
In Washington, State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli downplayed Kanafani's comments. "The analysis is faulty, to say the least," Ereli said.
Leaders of Al Qaeda, accused in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, have called on Muslim militants to strike Americans in Iraq. U.S. officials, however, say there is no firm evidence the terror network is organizing guerrillas in Iraq (search).
The United States has repeatedly accused Syria, long on the U.S. State Department list of countries sponsoring terrorism and an opponent of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, of not doing enough to ensure Muslim militants do not slip across its border into Iraq. Syrian officials say the long, porous border makes it hard to stop infiltrators.
"The problem here is not Syria, but America," Kanafani was quoted as telling Asharq al-Awsat.
Kanafani said the United States can help restore order if it accepts a timetable for withdrawing its troops from Iraq and allows a greater peacekeeping role for the United Nations.
Syrian President Bashar Assad has also blamed the U.S.-led occupation for instability in Iraq.
"The world has discovered that the war of 'liberation' of Iraq has liberated the Iraqi citizen of the state, the institutions, sovereignty, dignity, food, water and electricity," Assad said in a speech at the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit in Malaysia last month.
"The Iraqi citizen has become 'liberated' from the gift of life, and everyone, without exception, has discovered that the excuses which led to war lacked credibility," Assad said, referring to the U.S.-led coalition's failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
In addition to Iraq, Syrian-U.S. ties have been strained over Syrian support for anti-Israel groups based in Damascus and for the Lebanese Hezbollah group. Washington calls those groups terrorist organizations.
Kanafani told Asharq al-Awsat she was not optimistic about an early improvement in U.S.-Syrian ties.