Syria Rejects U.S. Claims It Is Aiding Terrorists

Published November 24, 2008

| Associated Press

Syria on Monday rejected U.S. allegations that it is allowing terrorist networks to use its territory to attack Iraq.

U.S. Embassy Charge d'Affaires Maura Connelly told a security conference of Iraq's neighbors held in Syria Sunday that militant groups continue to receive weapons, training, funding and guidance from abroad. She was apparently referring to Syria and Iran.

Washington has repeatedly accused both countries of allowing militants to cross into Iraq. In October, U.S. forces raided a Syrian village over the border from Iraq in an operation that Washington said targeted an Al Qaeda in Iraq leader.

A Japanese delegate who attended Sunday's conference quoted Connelly as saying in a closed session that "Syria is supporting and giving a safe haven to terrorist networks." The delegate spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

After the Oct. 26 raid, American officials issued similarly tough statements, saying U.S. forces were prepared to act if other nations did not. Syria protested the incursion and said eight civilians were killed.

"We strongly reject this talk," Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmed Arnous told The Associated Press Monday. "Syria doesn't accept such allegations, as it was among the first countries to work with the international community to combat terrorism."

In her public remarks Sunday, Connelly said militant groups driven out of Iraq continue to pose a threat and called on neighbors not to tolerate them. Specifically, she advocated joint training exercises to improve information sharing.

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