Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has warned the United States against attacking Iraq. In an interview with an Italian daily, the Syrian leader said such an attack could seriously affect stability in the region.

The Syrian leader's opposition to an attack on Iraq was spelled out in an interview published in the Milan daily Corriere della Sera. His comments were made two days before he pays an official visit to Italy, his first foreign trip since the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Any attack on Iraq, Mr. Assad said, would only attract more hatred for the United States. Washington has said it is considering various options against nations it believes could be developing weapons of mass destruction.

The Syrian president warned Washington that an attack against Iraq would result in "a popular fury that would be more dangerous than the political reaction." Such an attack, he said, would represent "an attack on justice and human rights."

The Syrian leader noted that European states had expressed alarm at U.S. threats of an attack on Iraq.

He said that Arab countries have more faith in the European Union than the United States to act as a balanced broker and maintain stability in the Middle East.

During his three day visit, which begins Tuesday, Mr. Assad, who is traveling with his wife, will be seeing Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. Italy is Syria's second-largest trading partner in Europe.