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Tuesday, 19 November, 2002, 17:19 GMT
Syria snubs US request
Wounded Israeli soldier
Settlers and soldiers were raked with gunfire in Hebron
Syria has rejected a United States demand to close down an office of the militant Palestinian group Islamic Jihad.

The request came after the group said it had carried out last Friday's ambush in the West Bank city of Hebron, which killed 12 Israelis.


These operations are planned and carried out in the occupied territories as a result of the continued [Israeli] occupation and its practices

Syrian foreign ministry statement

But a Syrian foreign ministry statement said the Damascus office had nothing to do with the attack.

Instead, it said, the US was responsible "for the current bloodletting because it supports the Israeli occupation and helps Israel shrug off [UN] Security Council resolutions calling for the end of the occupation and the dismantling of settlements".

Islamic Jihad and Hamas - the two principal radical Palestinian groups - are on the US list of terrorist organisations.

Washington has also constantly accused Syria - and "axis of evil" states Iran and Iraq - of actively supporting the killing of Israeli civilians.

Syria role

The Syrian statement said the Islamic Jihad's Damascus presence was a media relations operation only, and not involved in the Hebron attack.

"It is well known that these operations are planned and carried out in the occupied territories as a result of the continuation of the occupation and its practices, and not based on instructions issued by the media offices that are found in some Arab capitals," the statement said.

Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, Damascus-based head of Islamic Jihad
Some Islamic Jihad leaders live in Syria
It accused Israel of committing "the most ugly crimes against humanity in the occupied territories," declaring that the Palestinian response was legitimate under the UN charter.

In September, President George W Bush opposed a congressional attempt to introduce economic sanctions against Syria.

The bill would ban US investment or trade with Syria until Damascus closes "offices of Palestinian movements based in Syria, like Hamas and Islamic Jihad".

Correspondents say the US is interested in maintaining good relations with Syria as it prepares for a possible war against Iraq.

Syria - the only current Arab member of the Security Council - supported the new and tougher US-sponsored resolution to return to Baghdad UN weapons inspectors.


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17 Nov 02 | Middle East
16 Nov 02 | Middle East
04 Sep 02 | Business
15 Nov 02 | Middle East
16 Nov 02 | profiles
03 Dec 01 | issues
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