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Syria: Saddam's not our responsibility

Imad Moustapha
Moustapha: "We believe that Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries are dream targets for certain neo-conservative intellectuals here in the United States."

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States, not Syria, is responsible for making sure Saddam Hussein and other top leaders of his regime don't escape Iraq by crossing the border into Syria, a top Syrian diplomat said Thursday.

"The United States Army has secured the Iraqi borders with Syria since the early days of this conflict," said Imad Moustapha, Syria's deputy ambassador to United States, in an interview with CNN.

"They are the ones that are controlling those borders. Let them decide who ... they want to go into Syria or stay in Iraq."

Moustapha also said speculation that Syria might offer haven to members of the deposed Iraqi leadership and their families is "being used by forces that are hostile to Syria just to try to tarnish Syria's image."

However, when asked directly if Syria would give Saddam refuge, Moustapha would only say, "We are not interfering in this conflict. We are only supporting the people of Iraq, not the government of Iraq."

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other U.S. officials have charged that Syria has allowed war material to cross its border into Iraq, which Rumsfeld said was "not helpful." But Moustapha said those charges are untrue.

"It's not really about what Syria is doing. It's about what they are trying to portray Syria [as] doing," he said.

Moustapha also said Syrians "do not believe that Syria is next on the list of the United States," although he believes some officials in the United States do support expanding military action to other Middle Eastern countries.

"We believe that Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries are dream targets for certain neo-conservative intellectuals here in the United States that are strong allies of the extremist Likudist and Sharonist factions in Israel," he said.

Though Syria and Iraq have had an uneasy and sometimes hostile relationship in recent years, the Syrian government strongly opposed the U.S.-led military campaign.

Moustapha said images of liberated Iraqi civilians dancing joyously in the streets are deceptive, saying many Iraqis not captured by the cameras "are feeling very sad."

"Those people that are running in the streets -- those are mobs," he said.


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