Sunday, January 21, 2007
Iraqi president urges US to talk to Syria
"Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is urging the United States to talk with Syria, claiming in an interview that Damascus "supports" Iraq in fighting the insurgency.
"Syria wants stability in Iraq and supports us in combating terrorism. So there is no need for the constricted (American) position towards Syria," Talabani -- who visited Damascus this week -- told the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya satellite news channel.
"The more correct (approach) is that the United States opens a constructive dialogue with Damascus in order to reach common goals."
Talabani said that Iraq sympathises with Syria and "works to improve its relations with the United States," adding that his war-torn country would not take part in any possible attack on Syria, its neighbour to the west.
"Iraq would not be part of any aggression on Syria... We would not participate in any attempt to hit Syria," he said, adding however that he "did not think that the United States would attack Syria."
Talabani on Saturday wrapped up a landmark visit to Syria -- the first by an Iraqi president in three decades -- after receiving a pledge from President Bashar al-Assad to work with the Iraqi authorities to "eradicate terrorism."
"Under the agreement, Syria will provide all that helps to confront terrorist operations, and at the same time exert efforts to achieve true national reconciliation in Iraq," Talabani said in interview with the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Anbaa to be published on Sunday.
Washington has repeatedly accused Damascus of turning a blind eye towards foreign fighters using its territory to enter Iraq and take part in a raging anti-US insurgency, but Baghdad has insisted on building ties.
Syria says that while it has prevented thousands of fighters from entering Iraq, its attempts to discuss cooperation to resolve the Iraqi security situation have been rebuffed by the White House.
The Iraqi president also told the Kuwaiti daily that Syria and Iraq have reached a security deal under which Damascus will extradite "criminals" wanted by Baghdad, but not politicians of the former regime.
"We have agreed on the extradition of people wanted by the Iraqi judiciary if they are present in Syria, those who had committed ordinary crimes, bribes and corruption," Talabani said.
"But we have not asked for the extradition of (Iraqi) political opposition members living in Syria. We, however, asked Syria to prevent them from taking part in any potential armed activity against Iraq," Talabani said."