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SYRIA: Talk of a response to U.S. attack, an 'outrageous crime'

October 27, 2008 |  6:30 am

A spokesman for the Syrian Embassy in London called the U.S. attack within Syria on Sunday afternoon an "outrageous crime" and hinted at a reprisal.

"We expect a clarification, and of course Syria reserves the right to respond accordingly in the proper way," Jihad Makdissi told the BBC.

Reuters quoted the spokesman for the Iraqi government this morning as saying the raid was meant to target bad guys conducting operations against Iraqi forces. Ali Dabbagh said:

"The attacked area was the scene of activities of terrorist groups operating from Syria against Iraq. ... The latest of these groups ... killed 13 police recruits in an [Iraqi] border village. Iraq had asked Syria to hand over this group which uses Syria as a base for its terrorist activities."

Dabbagh said Iraq doesn't want the incident to damage relations with Syria, which recently agreed to send an ambassador to Baghdad for the first time in decades.

But there were indications that the raid could create geopolitical complications. For one thing, the operation could throw a wrench into U.S. and Iraqi efforts to pen an agreement that would legitimize the continued presence of American troops in Iraq.

"This is a flagrant violation of the new [security] agreement between Iraq and the U.S.," Syrian ministry of information spokeswoman Reem Haddad told Al Jazeera. "Because one of the points of that agreement is that they do not attack bordering countries."

The attack, which killed eight people , drew condemnation from U.S. friends as well as foes.

Staunch Syrian ally Iran, which holds enormous sway over the Baghdad government and opposes the U.S. troop presence in Iraq, condemned the U.S. operation. "We condemn any attack which leads to the killing of innocents and civilians," foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi told reporters in Tehran on Monday.

The pro-U.S. faction within the Lebanese government condemned the U.S. move. Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora accused the U.S., which funds his military, of an "unacceptable" violation of Syrian sovereignty. "Any military attack against an Arab country or on a small country by a larger country is an act we reject," said a statement issued by his office.

More details emerged about the incident. Syrian television quoted a fisherman injured in the raid as saying heavy gunfire heralded the four helicopters' arrival.

"The firing lasted about 15 minutes, and when I tried to leave the area on my motorcycle, I was hit by a bullet in the right arm," the man, in his 40s, was quoted as saying.

Syrian television also showed what it described as the injured wife of the building's guard, in a hospital bed, saying that two helicopters landed while two remained in the air during the attack.

— Borzou Daragahi in Beirut and Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran

P.S. Get news from the Middle East in your mailbox every day. The Los Angeles Times distributes a free daily newsletter with the latest headlines from the Middle East, as well as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can subscribe by logging in at the website here, clicking on the box for "L.A. Times updates" and then clicking on the "World: Mideast" box.

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