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Syrian-Saudi Commission condemned the recent U.S.-British air strikes against Baghdad

Damascus, 21 February 2001

Saudi Arabia, an arch rival of Iraq, has joined Syria in condemning the recent U.S.-British air strikes against Baghdad, officials said on Wednesday.

In a joint communiqué issued late on Tuesday at the end of a meeting of the Syrian-Saudi Commission, the foreign ministers of Syria, Farouq al-Shara, and Saudi Arabia, Prince Saud al-Faisal, declared their support for Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

``Both sides expressed feelings of denunciation and anxiety over the recent escalation against south Baghdad,'' it said in the communiqué.

``It (escalation) came at a time when wide consultations were being conducted to tackle the whole (Iraqi) issue at the next Arab summit in Amman in a way that preserves security in the region and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq,'' it said.

The Arab summit will be held in the Jordanian capital next month.

Earlier Syria condemned Friday's attacks by the U.S. and British jets just south of Baghdad, saying it would increase tension in the region.

Washington and London said the attacks were launched to protect their pilots patrolling Western-imposed no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq. They were the first air strikes in the Baghdad region since December 1998.

U.S. and British warplanes have patrolled the no-fly zones since soon after the 1991 Gulf War, when Iraq invaded Kuwait.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday Prince Saud said that all problems between the two countries could be solved ``if there is good intention.''

Asked about threats by Baghdad against Saudi Arabia and Kuwait for providing facilities for the air campaign, the minister said the issue would be discussed at the Arab summit.

Iraq fired several missiles against Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War in which Saudi Arabia took a leading role.

SYRIA WANTS IRAQ BACK IN ARAB FOLD

``We are exerting all efforts, within the framework of the international legitimacy, to lift all economic sanctions imposed on Iraq and to solve all problems and negative consequences that resulted from Iraq's invasion of Kuwait,'' one official quoted Shara as saying during the closed meeting on Tuesday.

``But what happened (air strikes) constituted a kind of frustration for our efforts,'' Shara said.

Ties between Syria and Iraq, ruled by rival factions of the Baath party, were damaged at the beginning of the 1980-1988 Iraq-Iran war in which Syria sided with Tehran.

Relations further deteriorated after Damascus joined a U. S. -led multinational force that drove Iraqi troops out of Kuwait in 1991 -- but have improved dramatically over the last few years.

Both states agreed to reopen their borders and engage in economic and commercial cooperation in line with Baghdad's so-called oil-for-food agreement with the United Nations.

Source: The New York Times
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21 February 2001 04:56:57 PM

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