Iraq has complained to the U.N. Security Council about Syria's failure to stem the flow of foreign fighters aiding the Iraqi insurgency. The United States also singled out Syria for criticism.
Saying his country is heading into a critical phase over the next three months, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari made an impassioned plea Wednesday for more help from the international community.
"Iraq is proud to stand with the nations of the world as a country that upholds the core values of the UN charter," Mr. Zebari says. "But Iraq also provides the test case for success or failure. We know our clear way forward, but we need your help. We need the help of every member nation and this organization to win this fight. We stick together or we lose together."
In an address to the Security Council, Mr. Zebari called on the United Nations to take a more vocal and visible role, especially in organizing next month's constitutional referendum.
He predicted a surge of pre-referendum violence by an alliance of what he called "foreign extremists and thugs of the former regime". And he pointedly accused Syria of refusing to halt the flow of foreign fighters pouring into Iraq to join the insurgency.
"Regrettably, the bulk of foreign fighters and terrorists are infiltrating from Syria, and the Syrian government has not demonstrated any serious cooperation to help us stop their transit," Mr. Zebari says.
Washington's deputy U.N. Ambassador Anne Patterson told the Council that the U.S.-led multinational force, increasingly aided by Iraqi forces, is stepping up efforts to secure the Iraq-Syria border. She urged all Iraq's neighbors to cooperate in the effort.
"The international community, particularly Iraq's neighbors, and especially Syria, must do more to stop foreign terrorists entering Iraq and retarding efforts to stabilize and secure the country," she says.
Syria's U.N. envoy, however, categorically denied the Iraqi and U.S. charges. Ambassador Fayssal Mekdad told reporters Syria has deployed more than 10,000 soldiers along the Iraqi border and built a barrier to prevent extremists from crossing.
"We are determined to cooperate with the Iraqi government," Mr. Mekdad says. "We are determined to help whatever we can help so that the suffering of the Iraqi people, which is painful for us, could be stopped. And this is a major task that my government is undertaking all the time."
Ambassador Mekdad also defended Syria's decision not to send a high-level representative to last week's summit of world leaders. The gathering was held at a time when a U.N. investigator is looking into the possibility of Syrian involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
When asked why Syria was the only one of the 191-member states not to address the summit, Ambassador Mekdad replied "people have listened to many speeches", and "we did not want to be repetitive".