DAMASCUS, Syria – Syria's president on Monday dismissed Iraqi accusations that his country has been used as a launching pad for violence in Iraq, calling the allegations "immoral" and politically motivated.
Iraq and Syria are entangled in a diplomatic dispute over demands that Damascus extradite two suspects wanted in recent suicide attacks on government ministries in Baghdad that killed about 100 people. The tension led both countries to recall their ambassadors.
The dispute was further compounded on Sunday, when Iraqi authorities broadcast a confession from a man who said he received militant training in neighboring Syria.
The Iraqi government has blamed an alliance of al-Qaida in Iraq and Saddam Hussein loyalists it says are based in Syria for the Aug. 19 bombings and demanded that Damascus hand over the two suspected plotters, raising tensions between the two countries.
Syrian President Bashar Assad said Wednesday his country has asked Iraq to provide evidence about alleged Syrian involvement in the Baghdad bombings, but has so far not received any response from the Iraqi side.
"When Syria is accused of killing Iraqis at a time it's hosting around 1.2 million Iraqis ... the least that can be said about this accusation is that it's immoral," Assad said.
"When Syria is accused of supporting terrorism while it has been fighting terrorism for decades, this is a political accusation," he added.
Addressing a joint press conference in Damascus with visiting Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias, Assad said, "Syria is keen about the Iraqi people, their lives and their interests in as much as it is keen about its own people."
He added that Syria is eager to maintain "good relations" with all neighboring countries.
In a bid to ease diplomatic tensions between the two neighbors, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu planned to meet leaders in Iraq and Syria later Monday.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki also visited Iraq and Syria on Sunday in an attempt to mediate the dispute between the two countries, which are both close allies of Iran.