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Syria halts cooperation with U.S.

U.S. criticisms provoke angry reaction

United States

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Syrian government has halted all cooperation with the United States in sharing information about the war on terror, Syria's ambassador said Tuesday.

Imad Moustapha told CNN that Syria's decision came in the wake of recent "unfair and inaccurate" statements by U.S. officials that Damascus was allowing foreign fighters to cross Syria's border to aid in the insurgency in Iraq.

"This is actually the state of the affairs. Today, we are not cooperating with the United States," Moustapha told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

At the same time, Syria is still willing to work with the United States on security issues, he said.

"We're not saying we will not do this anymore," Moustapha said. "We are saying that this is not happening today because of this state of affairs between us and the United States."

He added, "We are trying to tell the United States we are willing to engage with you constructively. We want a good relationship with you, but you have to stop this unfair media campaign against Syria, because we think it is unfair and it is unconstructive."

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said U.S. officials had met with Syrians on an array of issues -- from cutting off suspected terror financing to stopping Iraqi border infiltration -- but Damascus "didn't carry through in any consistent way."

"We look for them to take real action," Boucher said. "We look for them to cooperate in practical terms with us and especially with neighbors like Iraq."

He said Syria is "out of step with the region," and said Damascus has been trying to undermine efforts in Iraq and Lebanon as well as "the progress the Palestinian people are trying to make."

Relations between Washington and Damascus have been strained for years.

Moustapha said that in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Syrian government provided the United States with a "wealth of information on al Qaeda," including "actionable information" that Moustapha said helped prevent two terrorist attacks.

He said Syria has worked hard on securing its borders to try to prevent fighters from entering Iraq.

"When the United States publicly expressed that they were unsatisfied with our efforts, we said to them, 'This is what we are doing, and we are very transparent and clear on this. However, we invite you to engage with us. Let us work together on securing these borders.'"

Moustapha said Syria has also fully withdrawn from Lebanon -- pulling out both its military personnel and intelligence apparatus. A U.N. report released on Monday said it could not conclude with certainty that the Syrian intelligence agents have fully withdrawn as called for in U.N. resolution 1559. (Full story)

Moustapha said the U.N. report was made under pressure from the United States.

"Categorically and clearly we have withdrawn every single Syrian official from Lebanon," Moustapha said. "Whether he's in the army, in the intelligence, or with any other relation to those two organizations, there are no Syrians in Lebanon today that represent the army or the intelligence.

"This is absolute."

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