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Baghdad condemns 'US Syria raid'

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Video reportedly showing helicopters at the scene of the Syria attack

Iraq has denounced a raid into Syria at the weekend, saying it does not want its territory to be used as a launch-pad for US attacks on its neighbours.

Syria urged the UN Security Council to hold the US responsible for the attack, which it says killed eight civilians.

And Syria's cabinet called the attack "barbaric", ordering a US school and cultural centre in Damascus to be shut.

Unnamed US officials have said the operation killed a key figure involved in the smuggling of fighters into Iraq.

But Syrian foreign minister Walid Muallem denied the US claims calling them "totally unjustified".

'War crime attempt'

He branded the attack a "war crime attempt" and said it had claimed the lives of civilians - a father and his three children, a farm guard and his wife, and a fisherman.

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Speaking after a Baghdad cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh also explicitly criticised the US over the unconfirmed helicopter strike.

"The Iraqi government rejects the US helicopter strike on Syrian territory, considering that Iraq's constitution does not allow its land to be a base for launching attacks on neighbouring countries," he said.

But he urged Damascus to prevent groups using Syrian territory for "training and sending terrorists for attacks on Iraq and its people".

The White House has neither confirmed nor denied Sunday's strike near Abu Kamal, some eight kilometres (five miles) north of Iraq's border with Syria.

Syria had protested to the UN Security Council in a letter to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the state news agency Sana said on Tuesday.

It urged the Security Council "to hold the aggressor responsible for the deaths of the innocent Syrian nationals".

'Successful operation'

An unnamed US official told Reuters news agency the raid killed Iraqi Abu Ghadiyah, a former lieutenant of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaeda in Iraq leader who was killed in 2006.

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"It was a successful operation. [Abu Ghadiyah] is believed to be dead. This undoubtedly will have a debilitating effect on this foreign fighter smuggling network," the official said.

If confirmed, Sunday's strike would be the first US attack in Syria since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The attack reportedly took place during the afternoon rest period, with a troop assault preferred over a missile strike to reduce civilian casualties, the intelligence official said.

The US had repeatedly asked Syria to hand over Abu Ghadiyah but Damascus said it was monitoring his activities, another US military official told AP.

Meanwhile Iraq's cabinet authorised PM Nouri Maliki to put forward unspecified proposed changes to a security pact with the US.

The Status of Forces Agreement will govern US troop presence in Iraq when a UN mandate expires at the end of 2008.

The US and Iraqi governments had previously said the pact, which would authorise the presence of US troops in Iraq until 2011, was final and could not be amended.

On Tuesday, the White House said it was reluctant to accept any changes to the agreement.



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SEE ALSO
Profile: Abu Ghadiya
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Syria raid 'killed major target'
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Syria hits out at 'terrorist' US
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Pakistan parallels in 'Syria raid'
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Syrian witness reacts to US raid
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What could lie behind Syria raid?
26 Oct 08 |  Middle East
Country profile: Syria
01 Oct 08 |  Country profiles

FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Reuters Syria asks U.N. council to prevent new U.S. attacks - 4 hrs ago
Washington Post Syria Protests U.S. Raid to U.N., Orders Closures - 7 hrs ago
Washington Post Syria Protests U.S. Raid To U.N., Orders Closures - 10 hrs ago
CNN Syria protests U.S. strike - 11 hrs ago
CNN Syria complains to U.N. about U.S. strike - 12 hrs ago



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