Syria slams 'foolish' US over Middle East

By Inal Ersan

Damascus - Syria on Sunday said the United States administration was "violent and foolish" and that US policies on the Middle East were influenced by Israel.

Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara also accused Washington of avoiding any rapprochement with Damascus so as not to vex the Jewish state, the United States' main ally in the region.

"This administration is extraordinary. Maybe there have been some similar administrations in the past but not with this high level of violence and foolishness," Shara told reporters.

US President George Bush accused Syria last week of harbouring and assisting unspecified "terrorists" and warned that any state doing this would be held accountable.

Syria, which denied the charges, is on a US list of states sponsoring "terrorism" for its backing of Lebanon's Hizbollah guerrillas and Palestinian groups. Damascus says these groups have a right to resist Israel.

Shara shrugged off the possibility of US sanctions against Syria under a Syria Accountability Act in the US Congress.

"If this Act was launched we will not be frustrated. Of course this does not mean that we encourage them to endorse it, but the main loser would be the United States and American companies," he said.

"The United States does not wish for a good relationship with Syria because of Israel and the pressure that Israel applies on the US administration... most of the US administration's heavyweights fear Israel. This is the painful reality," Shara said at a meeting with Syrian journalists.

US-Syrian relations have traditionally been poor mainly due to US support for Israel, which captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.

Ties have been further strained in recent months over Syria's opposition to the US-led war in Iraq and accusations that it had helped elements of the former Iraqi government flee.

Shara said it was useless to ask Washington to apply pressure against Israel for Middle East peace due to the perceived sway of Israel on US foreign policy.

"I find it strange when they (Arabs) ask the United States to apply pressure on Israel because this talk is useless... Any promise the United States gives can be revoked by Israel.

"We have a signed US promise on the highest level that Israel withdraws to the fourth of July (1967 war) frontier... where is that promise today?"

Syria wants to resume peace talks with Israel from the point when they reached a dead end in October 2000, but Israel rejects any conditions. The talks broke down over the future of the Golan Heights.

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