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Syria backs 'Iraqi people' in war

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DAMASCUS, Syria (CNN) -- The Syrian government, under pressure from U.S. officials to choose sides in the Iraq war, said Monday it would back the Iraqi people.

"Syria has chosen to align itself with the brotherly Iraqi people who are facing an illegal and unjustified invasion and against whom are being committed all sorts of crimes against humanity," a foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by the Syrian News Agency.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld accused Syria last week of allowing war materials to enter Iraq, a move he said could compromise the mission of the U.S.-led coalition forces.

"We have information that shipments of military supplies have been crossing the border from Syria into Iraq, including night-vision goggles," Rumsfeld said Friday at a news conference. "These deliveries pose a direct threat to the lives of coalition forces. We consider such trafficking as hostile acts and will hold the Syrian government accountable for such shipments."

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday that Syria is in a position to make a "critical choice."

"Syria can continue direct support for terrorist groups in the dying regime of [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein or it can embark on a different and more hopeful course," he said. "Either way, Syria bears responsibility for its choices and for the consequences."

Syria disputed the suggestion that it is meddling in the Iraqi war.

"Indeed it's baseless, untrue and unfair," the Syrian ambassador to the United States, Rostom Al-Zoubi, told CNN Sunday.

"We respect and we are committed to international legitimacy, and Syria doesn't and did not do anything violating the international legitimacy."

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