WASHINGTON – The U.S. State Department's second-ranking official is traveling to Syria (search) to talk with officials there about the infiltration of insurgents across the Syrian border into Iraq.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (search) also will visit Jordan and Turkey, which also border Iraq. Armitage left Washington on Thursday but details of his itinerary were not disclosed.
"We have felt that it's very, very important for Syria to continue to take further action on the issues of infiltration of insurgents or support for insurgents in Iraq," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
The administration believes Iraqis who served under ousted President Saddam Hussein (search) are using Syria as a base of operations for supporting the insurgency.
Syria has shrugged off complaints, saying it was being made a scapegoat for U.S. failure to stop the uprising in Iraq.
Measures to combat the insurgency are taking on increasing importance for both Iraq and the United States as the Jan. 30 national elections in Iraq rapidly approach. The insurgents are trying to disrupt the elections.
On Tuesday, the administration accused Syria of helping insurgents in Iraq by providing a haven to elements of the deposed Saddam regime. Boucher said Syria has taken some steps to curb support for insurgents in Iraq, but not enough.
In Jordan and Turkey, Armitage will discuss ways in which the two countries can contribute to a successful election in Iraq, Boucher said.
In Turkey, Armitage will raise U.S. concerns about truck traffic between Iraq and Turkey that provides supplies to the insurgency.
In Jordan, Armitage's agenda will include ways to advance the Middle East peace process. The administration sees the Jan. 9 elections in the Palestinian territories as a possible opening for ending the long-running impasse between Israel and the Palestinians.