Syria warns US of retaliation
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
ISTANBUL - TDN with wire dispatches
A U.S. military raid inside Syria was an act of "criminal and terrorist aggression," Syrian government said, and Damascus warned of retaliation if its borders were violated again. If there is a repeat of the weekend raid, "we would defend our territories," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told a news conference in London, according to The Associated Press.
Syria also decided yesterday to close the U.S. cultural center and the American school in Damascus, the state news agency SANA reported. Syrian news agency said the decision came at a Cabinet meeting yesterday chaired by Prime Minister Naji Otari. The report also added that the Syrian education minister has been instructed to implement the decision.
The U.S. military said it was targeting the network of al-Qaeda-linked foreign fighters moving through Syria to help fight in Iraq. But Syria said troops in four helicopters attacked a building and killed eight civilians, including four children.
Al-Moallem said that a farmer, three children and a fisherman who was out working are among the dead.
"All of them are civilian, unarmed, and they are on Syrian territory," he said. "Killing civilians in international law means a terrorist aggression. We consider this criminal and terrorist action." He said he did not believe civilians had been killed mistakenly.
"The Americans do it in the daylight ... this means it is not a mistake - it's by blunt determination," Al-Moallem said.
Al-Moallem dismissed claims that the U.S. had been pressed to act inside Syria's borders because the country has done too little to halt the flow of fighters crossing into Iraq. Syria is working hard to seal the border, but the U.S. is "blaming us by killing our civilians," al-Moallem told reporters.
US under fire for raid:
Meanwhile, Iraqi government as well as Egypt and China condemned deadly U.S. raid into Syria at the weekend.
"The Iraqi government rejects U.S. aircraft bombarding posts inside Syria. The constitution does not allow Iraq to be used as a staging ground to attack neighboring countries," Iraqi spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said yesterday.
Dabbagh said Iraq had opened an investigation into the incident and urged U.S. forces not to repeat it. But he also called for a halt to what he described as insurgent activity inside Syria, as reported by Agence France-Presse.
In Cairo a foreign ministry statement carried by Egypt's official MENA news agency called the U.S. strike a "serious violation of Syria's sovereignty."
It said Egypt called on all parties "to refrain from any activity or measure that could destabilize the region... and respect the principles of good neighborliness."
China also condemned the raid, with foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu telling reporters that Beijing opposes "any deed that harms other countries' sovereignty and territorial integrity."
"Relevant parties should properly handle this case to safeguard peace and stability in the Middle East."
On Monday, France, Russia and also the European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana voiced concern about the U.S. operation.
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