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Iraqi Official says Syria and Iran Helping Insurgents

A senior Iraqi official has directly accused Syria and Iran of actively supporting the insurgency that is conducting daily deadly attacks on Iraqi and U.S. targets. Speaking from Baghdad to reporters at the Pentagon Minister of State Kasim Daoud called on the two countries to stop allowing insurgents to cross their borders into Iraq.

Minister Daoud was direct in identifying the sources of help to Iraq's insurgency. He said: "Unfortunately, we have two, if I can put it in this way, naughty boys, neighbors, Iran and Syria."

Mr. Daoud says in spite of diplomatic efforts to convince Iran to control its border with Iraq, insurgents continue to cross it.

"It is quite clear that there is a sort of clear interference from Iran toward Iraq, especially in the provinces that edge onto the borderline. We are monitoring the penetration of many insurgents crossing the border," he said.

Minister Daoud also says Iraq and the United States have worked to convince Syria to prevent insurgents from crossing into Iraq, but without success.

"'Until now we did not get any good response from the Syrians, although our intelligence information, with very solid documents, shows the involvement of the, some of the security forces, Syrian security forces authorities, in these activities," he said.

The Iraqi official's comments seemed to contradict a statement by the senior U.S. military commander in western Iraq, who is responsible for security along much of the Syrian border. General John Satler told reporters last week that diplomatic pressure has resulted in some cooperation from Syria.

"The Syrians have really stepped up on their side of the border to go ahead and ensure that any cuts through the berms [barriers] were filled back in, and to ensure that they have more active pro-active patrols working the Syrian border from the Syrian side," he said.

Syria's foreign minister has denied any official Syrian support for the insurgents, saying that if they cross the border into Iraq it is without the Syrian government's knowledge.

Minister of State Daoud says many of the insurgents are loyal to Saddam Hussein, who headed the Iraqi Baath Party. The Baath Party of Syria still controls that country. He says most of the rest of the insurgents are Islamic extremists.

The minister says Iraq is working to secure the borders from its side, and is also hoping that Iran and Syria can be convinced that it would be in their interests to support stability in Iraq, rather than instability.

"We hope that both countries may reach a sort of conclusion that the instability in Iraq will reflect negatively and badly toward the stability not only of Syria and Iran only, but to the whole area," he said.

Minister Daoud says the insurgency is playing what he called a "very, very destructive role" in Iraq, as the country prepares to hold nationwide elections on Sunday.