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US Accuses Iran, Syria of Complicity in Mideast Violence

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says Iran and Syria are fomenting conflict in the Middle East by supporting Hezbollah and other militant groups.

Secretary Rice says Iran and Syria are backing terrorists and militants against Israel, as part of a larger campaign against the spread of democracy in the region. Rice spoke on CBS's Face the Nation program from the Group of Eight Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia.

"I absolutely see that Syria and Iran are playing a part in this," said Condoleezza Rice. "They are not even trying to hide their hand. Syria has held press conferences for Hezbollah. And Iran is the major financier of these [terrorist] efforts. Iran and Syria, like these extremist elements - Hezbollah and Hamas, do not have a future in the different kind of Middle East that the president [Bush] and his allies are building."

Another administration official, White House Counselor Dan Bartlett, speaking on CNN's Late Edition program, predicted that efforts by Iran and Syria to destabilize the region will backfire.

"What we are seeing now, in an unfortunate circumstance like this, [is] a clarification, a drawing of the lines between those forces that are for peace and stability, and those that are not," said Dan Bartlett. "And what you are going to see is further isolation of the governments of Syria and Iran, and more people joining the moderate forces. And that is a hopeful sign, as we move forward."

But some argue that Iran has been emboldened by the inability of U.S.-led forces to quell violence in Iraq. Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright spoke on ABC's This Week program.

"There is no question in my mind that Iraq has diverted everybody's attention," said Madeline Albright. "We are overstretched, in terms of our troops, who are doing a terrific job. I do think that Iraq is turning out to be a huge disaster, with many unintended consequences, one of which is the fact that Iran has gained more and more influence, and is in a position to be helpful to Hezbollah that it was not before [the war in Iraq]."

But Secretary of State Rice dismisses any notion that Iran sees the United States as weak or overburdened.

"It is going to be a different kind of Middle East, a Middle East, by the way, in which there is no room for the kind of extremism that Syria and Iran represent," she said. "That is why they are striking out [fomenting conflict]. It is not a matter of [U.S.] weakness. It is because they think we are going to succeed, and they are determined to stop it. We are determined that they will not."

In the past, Hezbollah leaders have acknowledged support from Tehran.