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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Interview with Syrian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman

Aired March 29, 2003 - 06:10   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has a warning for one of Iraq's neighbors. Now he alleges that military equipment, including night vision goggles, has been sent from -- has been sent into Iraq from Syria.
Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We consider such trafficking as hostile acts and will hold the Syrian government accountable for such shipments.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: We wanted some reaction to his statements. Bouthaina Shaaban, the Syrian Foreign Ministry, is on the phone to talk more about it.

Ms. Shaaban, thanks very much for joining us.

Has any...

BOUTHAINA SHAABAN, SYRIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESWOMAN: Sure.

COOPER: Has any military equipment been supplied by your government to the regime of Saddam Hussein?

SHAABAN: Absolutely not. Mr. Rumsfeld's remark is absolutely unfounded. And I think it would be a better idea, instead of throwing allegations here and there, to rethink what this war is all about. As you know, yesterday, 68 Iraqis were killed in a marketplace and today 5 American soldiers were killed. As a mother, I feel so bad about all American, British and Iraqi mothers who losing their loved ones for no good reason whatsoever.

COOPER: Is it possible -- Secretary Rumsfeld did not specify whether he -- or would not say publicly whether or not he believed this was a Syrian government operation or not. Is it possible that if military equipment was supplied by private parties within Syria...

SHAABAN: No.

COOPER: ... to Iraq...

SHAABAN: No.

COOPER: ... that the government doesn't know about?

SHAABAN: No. No, it's not possible at all. Syria is a very responsible country. And Syria has joined American people and British people and all people all over the world to say that this war is illegitimate and unnecessary. And we are exerting so much effort in order to stop this unnecessary war. We are -- we are a very responsible country and that's absolutely impossible.

But you know I would like, really, to remind you that so many of the remarks and allegations that Mr. Rumsfeld has made have proven to be unfounded. He'd been pressing us to put refugee camps for the refugees who are going to come from Iraq. And if you may allow me to let you what happened, we didn't have a single refugee come in from Iraq. We have 100,000 Iraqis who were fleeing the regime, and now they all went back to Iraq to fight against American and British occupation.

I think it's about time the Secretary of State takes the reality on the ground into account...

COOPER: What...

SHAABAN: ... instead of committing all these people to death.

COOPER: What evidence do you have that all those 100,000 went back to fight?

SHAABAN: The Americans forces are seeing them. They're flooding the border every day going back to Iraq. Iraqis are coming back from everywhere in the world to fight for their country, from Jordan. You know we saw them and heard them on the -- on the radio this morning. They were asking them where are you from? We -- they said we are from every city. We will fight for every city in Iraq. You know, obviously the course of events through this war shows that it is a war of occupation, at least this is what the Iraqis and the Arabs believe.

COOPER: All right.

SHAABAN: And I think this is a good enough reason to rethink the entire strategy.

COOPER: All right. Bouthaina Shaaban, with the Syrian Foreign Ministry, appreciate you joining us this morning. Thanks very much.

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