US helicopter 224.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Iraqi officials on Monday warned that a US military raid into Syria could be used by opponents of a security pact under negotiation with the United States.
The Syrians report that US troops backed by helicopters launched the attack Sunday on Syrian territory close to the border with Iraq, killing eight people. Damascus condemned the raid as "serious aggression."
The raid, which a US military official in Washington confirmed, occurred at a sensitive time in US-Iraqi relations as the two sides are negotiating an agreement that would extend the legal basis for American forces in Iraq after a UN mandate expires on Dec. 31.
Opponents and regional countries led by Iran have expressed concern that the long-term US presence could allow the Americans to use Iraq as a staging ground for attacks against its neighbors. The Iraqis have insisted that would not be allowed.
Prominent Kurdish politician Mahmoud Othman claimed the raid was carried out with the Iraqi government's knowledge.
"It will be used against the agreement and will give the Iranians reason to increase their interference here against the agreement. Now neighboring countries have a good reason to be concerned about the continued US presence in Iraq," he told The Associated Press.
Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh, however, said the area where the raid occurred "is a theater of military operations where anti-Iraq terrorist activity takes place."
US officials have complained that Sunni insurgents use Syria as a base for sending fighters and weapons into Iraq.
But the US military in Iraq said it had no information about the raid.
Iraqi Foreign Ministry undersecretary Labib Abbawi said the Iraqis were seeking more information from the US.
"We hope the incident does not impact negatively on our relations with Syria," he said. "We are trying to contain the fallout from the incident. It is regrettable and we are sorry it happened."
Abbawi said he did not believe the Syrian raid would affect the security negotiations but acknowledged that "some will use the incident for the argument against the agreement."
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