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The US considered attacking camps and facilities in Syria that are being used by insurgents operating in Iraq, Newsweek magazine reported. According to the report, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice opposed the attack and succeeded in persuading other senior officials to put it off.
According to the report, for the first time since the Iraq war broke out the US has seriously debated the possibility of launching attacks inside the Syrian side of the Iraq-Syria border. This border has turned into the primary route for insurgents and terrorists entering Iraq in order to attack US soldiers and Iraqis.
The suggested strike was intended to hit camps along the border that are used by insurgents on their way into Iraq as well as known bases that serve as headquarters for the terrorists groups that support them. The US has not been successful thus far in convincing the Syrian regime to close the border and stop infiltrations into Iraq. In the past month US forces in Iraq have focused their attacks on the Syrian border area, but have refrained from entering the Syrian territory.
According to the report, Rice was the major force against the attack, claiming that international diplomatic pressure would be more effective at this stage.
The magazine also reported that Syria has severed its intelligence ties with the US following the latest deterioration in relations between the two countries. After the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, Syria was helpful in detaining al-Qaida terrorists and passing on intelligence to the US, but, according to the Newsweek report, this cooperation no longer exists.
Meanwhile, US Assistant Secretary of State David Welch said that he is worried by Syriaâ€™s behavior in the Middle East and warned that Syrian President Bashar Assadâ€™s regime was not heeding calls to change its behavior in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.
Welchâ€™s remarks came amid reports that Egypt and Saudi Arabia were trying to ease US-Syrian tensions in order to avoid a new potential regional conflict.
â€œOur worries are not just with the situation in Iraq but also with respect to the Syrians interfering in Lebanon and its renewed interference in the situation of the Palestinians and Israelis,â€ Welch told reporters after meeting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
â€œThese are very difficult issues, and we would ask the Syrian government not to interfere in such matters,â€ Welch said. â€œIt appears that they are not listening and it seems this behavior is not changing.â€ Syria denies claims it is actively supporting the insurgency in Iraq and said it has made efforts to shut down its long, porous border with the war-ravaged country.
But it has said it is impossible to completely seal the vast desert frontier shared by both countries.
Damascus also hosts eight Palestinian militant groups, including Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which have rejected calls to disarm and continue issuing threats against US ally Israel.
On other issues, Welch said Washington is encouraging an Egyptian role in the Gaza Strip following last monthâ€™s Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian Mediterranean coastal strip.
â€œEgypt is playing a very important role in trying to strengthen the security arrangements so that the Palestinians and Israelis can have this dialogue with renewed confidence between them,â€ Welch said. â€œPresident [George W.] Bush strongly supports this Egyptian role.â€
AP contributed to this report.