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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 January, 2005, 22:25 GMT
US sees Syrian 'progress' on Iraq
By Jon Leyne
BBC News, Jordan

Bashar al-Assad (L) with Richard Armitage in Damascus
The US has long accused Syria of harbouring terrorists
A senior American official has said that Syria has made progress in controlling its border with Iraq but it still needs to do more.

The comments were made by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage following a meeting with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria in Damascus.

Syria has been under steady US pressure in recent months over its role in Iraq.

Washington accuses Syria of not doing enough to prevent infiltration across its border with Iraq.

US officials also believe that significant financial support for the insurgency in Iraq is being channelled through Syria.

So the Syrian authorities will welcome these comments by Richard Armitage.

Mixed message

The deputy secretary of state said that Syria had made improvements in recent months on its border security but, he added:

"We all need to do more, particularly on the question of foreign regime elements participating in activities in Iraq going back and forth from Syria."

This is the latest in a series of mixed signals towards Syria coming from Washington.

Only last month, President George W Bush warned the Syrian government against meddling in the affairs of Iraq.

This latest, more positive message is coming from someone who is about to leave the administration.

It is clear the debate in Washington over what to do about Syria is still continuing.

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