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Blair Blames Foreign 'Fanatics' for Baghdad Chaos - 2003-04-14

British Prime Minister Tony Blair says foreign irregular forces are responsible for most of the attacks that continue against U.S. troops in Baghdad.

Prime Minister Blair told Parliament Monday that what he called foreign "fanatics" are responsible for much of the ongoing chaos in Baghdad.

"These are the people who come from different parts of the world. There are people from several different countries in the region," he said. "There are also people from Chechnya that have been discovered there. There are a range of different individuals. Some of those are those that are carrying on the fighting. Some of those have even been those that have been carrying on the looting, too."

Mr. Blair also tried to play down speculation that Syria might be the next American target after allegations from Washington that Damascus could be hiding banned weapons and helping former Iraqi officials.

"I spoke to [Syrian] President Basher al-Assad over the weekend and he assured me that they would interdict anybody who was crossing over the border from Iraq into Syria," he said. "I believe they are doing that. Some of the wilder surmises that are in the media at the moment are simply not correct. There are no plans whatever to invade Syria."

Mr. Blair also expressed concern about the looting of Baghdad's archeological museum, and he said efforts are on to deal with the problem.

"There is a conference happening this Thursday at which the director of the British Museum will attend in order to see what we can do and of course we will also be making provisions to make sure that no stolen works of art can come onto the market," he said. "So we will do everything we possibly can in relation to this and we understand that it is a serious responsibility for us."

The prime minister also said wounded children could be brought to Britain for medical treatment, including Ali Ismail Abbas, who lost his parents and both arms in a coalition bombing raid in Baghdad.