Monday, October 27, 2008

Syria hits out at 'terrorist' US

Walid Muallem: We put the responsibility on the American government

Syria's foreign minister has accused the US of an act of "criminal and terrorist aggression" over what it says was a helicopter raid on its territory.

Walid Muallem said Sunday's attack saw four US aircraft travel eight miles inside Syrian airspace from Iraq and kill eight unarmed civilians on a farm.

He said those who died were a father and his three children, a farm guard and his wife, and a fisherman.

The US has not confirmed or denied the alleged raid.

However, a unnamed US official was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying that its forces had mounted a "successful" raid against foreign fighters threatening US forces in Iraq.

The US has previously accused Syria of allowing militants into Iraq, but Mr Muallem insisted his country was trying to tighten border controls.

'An opportunity'

Speaking at a news conference in London, Mr Muallem said the raid on the town of Abu Kamal was "not a mistake" and that he had urged the Iraqi government to investigate.


"We consider this criminal and terrorist aggression. We put the responsibility on the American government," he told reporters following talks with UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

He added: "All of them [the victims] are civilians, Syrian, unarmed and they are on the Syrian territories.

"Killing civilians in international law means a terrorist aggression."

Asked if Syria would use force if a similar operation was mounted, he said: "As long as you are saying if, I tell you, if they do it again, we will defend our terrorities."

Referring to the US presidential election, he said: "We hope the coming administration will learn the mistakes of this administration."

Mr Muallem and Mr Miliband were scheduled to hold a joint press conference, but Mr Miliband withdrew. The UK government has declined to comment on the raid.

The US official quoted by AFP said: "Look when you've got an opportunity, an important one, you take it.

"That's what the American people would expect, particularly when it comes to foreign fighters going into Iraq, threatening our forces."

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