Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said
Thursday that Syria was sheltering armed groups wanted for cross-border
attacks, forcing him to appeal to the United Nations for help in
stopping what he called a hostile act.
between the countries have been particularly tense since a pair of
truck bombings in August outside the foreign and finance ministries in
Baghdad that killed about 100 people. Iraq
, which has blamed an
alliance between al-Qaida in Iraq and Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath
Party, wants Syria to hand over several suspects it says are based
Maliki, who has faced criticism for security lapses that aided
the bombers, met with a group of European and Arab
to press his case that those who plotted the Aug. 19 attacks are based
It is an especially sensitive issue for Maliki, who has used
overall improvements in security as his main campaign talking point
before January's national elections. The ministry bombings shook
people's confidence at a time when his government is trying to show it
can ensure security now that most US forces have withdrawn from urban
"Why is there this insistence on harboring armed
groups and persons wanted by Iraqi jurisdiction?" the prime minister
said, referring to Syria's refusal to deliver suspects. His comments
were released by his office after the meeting.
Syria, which has demanded to see proof of Iraq's claims,
accuses Maliki's government of seeking to exploit the ministry attacks
to press demands for the handover of Iraqi opposition
figures living in
Both countries have recalled their ambassadors
over the dispute, which came as relations between the neighbors were
thawing after decades of tension.
Syria is home to a number of Iraqis who were mid-ranking and
senior members of Saddam's Baath Party, and Iraqi officials say
Damascus allows them to live and engage in political activity in Syria.
Maliki said such groups should not be allowed by the countries
hosting them to interfere in Iraq's internal affairs, especially after
the start of the American troop withdrawal.
"Some neighboring countries considered the presence of
multinational forces as harmful to their national security and they
started to interfere with the pretext of resisting the occupation," he
said. "But, after the withdrawal of US forces, this situation has
become unacceptable and we consider it a hostile act."
Even prior to the August attacks, Iraq had asked Syria to
cooperate in stopping the activities of Baath Party figures, but
instead that activity increased, Maliki said.
"We are now compelled to request the [UN] Security Council to
form an international tribunal because Iraq is facing a serious threat
from neighboring countries," the prime minister said.
Iraq wants the formation of such a tribunal that would pressure Syria to deliver suspects in the August bombings.
Overall, violence has eased across Iraq, though attacks have
persisted in cities like Baghdad and Mosul in the north. Three roadside
bombings in the Mosul area on Thursday killed one Iraqi policeman and
wounded three people.
Also Thursday, a car bomb apparently targeting the leader of
Iraq's largest Sunni political party wounded four people northeast of
Baghdad, police said. The politician escaped unharmed.
Police said the car, parked near a restaurant in the city of
Baqouba, exploded two minutes after a convoy passed by with the leader
of the Iraqi Islamic Party, Osama al-Tikriti, and other officials. Four
civilian bystanders were wounded in the blast, which destroyed a number
of shops along Baqouba's main street, said police Capt. Ghalib