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Monday, 1 April, 2002, 23:56 GMT 00:56 UK
Washington accuses Syria of terror role
Mourners bury Menchel Daniel, one of 16 people killed in a suicide attack on a Haifa restaurant
Rumsfeld: "Murderers are not martyrs"
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has accused Iran, Iraq and Syria of actively supporting the killing of Israeli civilians.

He said the three states in different ways contributed to suicide bombings and other attacks by anti-Israeli militants.


The people in Syria ought to know that their government is facilitating the flow of weapons and financing and terrorist activity down from Iran and into Lebanon and into Israel

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

The attack is significant as it is the first time Washington has accused Syria of encouraging terrorism since it launched its war on terror after 11 September.

Mr Rumsfeld told journalists that Iraq, long seen as a potential new military target for the US, offered bonuses the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.

 US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
Journalists were not expecting Mr Rumsfeld's remarks
"States like Iran, Iraq and Syria are inspiring and financing a culture of political murder and suicide bombing," he said in Washington.

Targeting civilians was, he said, "immoral, whatever the excuse".

Mr Rumsfeld said Iraq was offering payments to the families of suicide-bombers striking at Israeli restaurants and other civilian facilities:

"They're running around encouraging people to be suicide bombers and offering - I think I saw something like $10,000 per family."

As for Iran, it had tried to ship weapons and munitions to the Palestinian Authority earlier this year while Syria sent supplies to militants via Lebanon.

Israeli officials inspect the Karine A and its cargo of weapons
The US believes a ship seized by Israel this year was carrying Iranian arms to the Palestinians
The US defenve secretary painted a picture of Tehran and Damascus working together to wage terror on Israel:

"The people in Syria ought to know that their government is facilitating the flow of weapons and financing and terrorist activity down from Iran and into Lebanon and into Israel.

"There's no question but that the Iranians work with the Syrians and send folks into Damascus and down to Beirut... and then into south Lebanon, so that they can conduct terrorist attacks."

The BBC's Jon Leyne reports from Washington that none of Mr Rumsfeld's accusations are new but his mention of Syria appears to mark a departure.

Religion

Mr Rumsfeld also said that the Islamic religion was being perverted to encourage the suicide-bombers.

"Murderers are not martyrs," he said. "A whole generation of young people is being taught something that is totally inconsistent with that religion."

His words echoed remarks by President George W Bush on Monday in which he described suicide bombings in the name of religion as "simple terror".

Mr Bush urged Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to order a halt to the bombings and also appealed to Israel to carefully weigh its military response.

See also:

01 Apr 02 | Middle East
Gunmen fire on Israel from Lebanon
01 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel tightens grip on West Bank
17 Jul 01 | Middle East
Saddam targets Israel
14 Feb 02 | Middle East
Palestinians declare arms issue closed
21 Mar 02 | Middle East
Israel's history of bomb blasts
02 Dec 01 | profiles
Who are the suicide bombers?
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