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Last Updated:  Monday, 7 April, 2003, 09:03 GMT 10:03 UK
US 'not targeting Iran or Syria'
By Sadeq Saba
BBC Middle East analyst

The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has denied that Syria and Iran are Washington's next targets.

In an interview with the London-based Arabic newspaper, al-Hayat, Mr Powell said the United States had no intention of invading the two countries.

Colin Powell
Powell: Attacking Syria or Iran not on the agenda

Last week, he gave a tough warning to Tehran and Damascus to stop supporting terrorism.

His colleague, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, went even further by accusing the two countries of interfering in the war in Iraq.

Mr Powell's latest comments follow a statement by the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, saying that the Americans had no plans to attack Syria or Iran.

The secretary of state said nobody in the American administration had talked about attacking Iran or Syria.

He dismissed as nonsense speculation that these two countries were the next targets for the US after Iraq.

And he reiterated the official US policy that both Iran and Syria posed a problem by supporting terrorism and developing weapons of mass destruction.

Muslim fears

But Mr Powell pointed out that there were different ways of handling these problems.

His comments were designed to allay fear in the Muslim world that Syria and Iran could be invaded after the overthrow of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Speculation about a possible attack against these two countries circulated last week when senior officials in the Bush administration warned Tehran and Damascus not to let military supplies, or volunteer fighters, into Iraq.

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