US criticizes Syria as negative force in Mideast

The United States on Tuesday criticized Syria as a negative force in the Middle East and urged the country to do more to help stabilize Iraq. In an interview Monday, Syrian President Bashar Assad said the Bush administration does not have the vision to bring peace to Iraq and that his country could help calm the crisis if approached. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, responding to reporters' questions about Assad and Syria, said the United States has made "multiple attempts" to try to engage Syria on efforts to stabilize the region, only to have Syria try to "extract some public relations benefits" from the meetings. "Syria continues to exert a negative influence in Lebanon," McCormack said. "They do not play a positive role in Iraq. They play a negative role in terms of the Palestinians realizing their own state."