WASHINGTON, (AFP) – Syria strongly condemned bomb attacks which have killed scores of people in Baghdad this week and said it was ready to do "whatever it takes" to cooperate with US and Iraqi authorities in bringing security and stability to its neighbor.
In a statement released two days after US President George W. Bush publicly warned Damascus to stop foreign fighters entering Iraq, the Syrian embassy here said the country was making "great efforts" to seal the border between Syria and Iraq.
"Syria strongly and categorically denounces the terrorist explosions, which have killed and injured many innocent civilians in Iraq during the past couple of days," the statement said.
"In this hard time, Syria would like to reiterate its position calling for the unity of the Iraqi people as a path to insure stability and security in Iraq.
"To help the Iraqi people in achieving security and prosperity and because the Iraqi quagmire has dangerous implications on the entire Middle East, Syria has exerted and continues to exert great efforts to seal the Syrian-Iraqi border," the statement said.
"Moreover, Syria reiterates our willingness to do whatever it takes to cooperate with the US and Iraqi authorities for the sake of achieving these objectives," it added.
Bush warned Syria on Tuesday that it faces growing isolation because of its failure to stop foreign fighters from entering Iraq and because of its actions in Lebanon.
"These people are coming from Syria into Iraq and killing a lot of innocent people," Bush told reporters following a meeting at the White House with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. "They”re trying to kill our folks as well.
"And the Syrian leader (President Bashar al-Assad) must understood, we take his lack of action seriously," Bush said.
"The (Syrian) government is going to become more and more isolated as a result of two things: one, not being cooperative with the Iraqi government in terms of securing Iraq and, two, not being fully transparent about what they did in Lebanon," the president said.
Bush did not specify what Syrian actions in Lebanon he was referring to but Damascus and its allies in the then-Lebanese government have been widely blamed for the February 14 bomb blast on the Beirut seafront that killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri.
The US ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, issued a strong warning to Damascus on Monday over providing help to radical groups in Iraq and said "our patience is running out."
When asked how the United States could respond, Khalilzad said "all options are on the table," including military. "I would not like to elaborate more, they should understand what I mean."
Asked about the military option Thursday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that was "not the issue right now with Syria."
"The president never takes any option off the table, but I think that”s not the issue right now with Syria," Rice told reporters at the United Nations, where she was attending a summit. "I think the issue right now with Syria is that Syria is really internationally isolated."