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Damascus Demands Return of Syrian Border Guards by US - 2003-06-26


Syria's news agency says Washington has not responded to complaints from Damascus about Syrian border guards detained by U.S. forces in Iraq. The guards were taken into custody during a raid on an Iraqi convoy headed toward the Syrian border.

The news agency, SANA, says the Syrian Foreign Ministry lodged a formal protest last week, demanding an explanation from Washington and the return of several wounded border guards. The guards were taken into custody following a raid June 19 by U.S. special forces in Iraq.

U.S. officials say the purpose of the raid was to find wanted senior members of Saddam Hussein's regime. But the raid produced no wanted Iraqis, according to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who said Washington is in contact with Syria regarding the incident.

Five Syrian border guards were taken into custody following a gunfight in which three of the border guards were wounded.

The attack was carried out on a convoy of vehicles heading toward Syria from Iraq. U.S. officials believed the convoy carried officials from Saddam's regime. But they say there is no indication that the former Iraqi dictator or his two sons were killed.

According to SANA, Syria wants the border guards returned to avoid any misunderstanding that might lead to an escalation neither side wants.

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