- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 26, 2003

From combined dispatches

BAGHDAD — A top British official said yesterday that Syria and Iran have been generally cooperative on Iraq, but that he would like to see more “unequivocal” support from them.

Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the most senior British official in the U.S.-led administration in Baghdad, said a dialogue was under way with Damascus and Tehran to encourage them to back more openly the postwar drive to create a new Iraq.

“I think on the whole that they have been quite cooperative,” said Mr. Greenstock, Britain’s former ambassador to the United Nations, when asked if Syria and Iran were actively trying to destabilize Iraq.

“But there are different parts of these [Syrian and Iranian government] machines, with different habits in their background, and I would like their approaches to be more unequivocally supportive than they are.”

“We are talking to them,” Mr. Greenstock added. “I think they realize this is going somewhere, that they are going to have to live with the new Iraq.”

The United States lists Syria and Iran among states that support terrorism and is considering diplomatic and economic sanctions against Syria.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld accused Syria and Iran last week of complicating efforts to stabilize Iraq because foreign fighters were crossing their borders to attack U.S. troops and their allies.

“It sure would be a lot easier if they were helpful, instead of harmful,” Mr. Rumsfeld told The Washington Times.

Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq Shara told the London Sunday Telegraph his country could not prevent fighters from slipping across a long, porous border with Iraq.

“They are very determined, and many of them dream of seeing an American tank,” Mr. Shara said.

“We are doing everything we can. We have tightened our checkpoints and are turning people back. But the border is long and we cannot cover it all,” he said.

In Tehran yesterday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Iran last month gave the U.N. Security Council the names of 225 suspected al Qaeda operatives who it has detained and returned to their home countries.

He also said Iran told the United Nations about 2,300 people who sneaked across the border from Pakistan between October 2002 and July 2003 and were deported back to Pakistan.

When asked how many al Qaeda operatives were in Iranian custody, Mr. Asefi would only say that they had “a number of them.” He said Iran would not reveal the number and names of al Qaeda suspects in custody for security reasons.

Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi confirmed for the first time in July that Iran was holding “a large number of small and big-time elements of al Qaeda.”

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