Syria, Iran reject Bush attacks on their policies (REUTERS) By Inal Ersan DAMASCUS, SYRIA 02/03/05 12:58 PM ET)
Reuters News Service
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DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Syria and Iran on Thursday dismissed as
baseless U.S. President George W. Bush´s attacks on their policies
in the Middle East.
In his State of the Union address on Wednesday, Bush accused Syria
of letting "terrorists" use Syrian and Lebanese territory
to "destroy every chance of peace" in the Middle East.
Syrian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Bushra Kanafani said Damascus
was doing all it could to stop fighters crossing into Iraq and had
offered Baghdad a security agreement.
Washington imposed economic sanctions on Syria in May, citing the
Iraq border issue and Syrian support for anti-Israeli Palestinian
and Lebanese factions.
Damascus has recently signalled its readiness to resume peace talks
with Israel without pre-conditions, but the Israelis say they want
it to cease backing its militant enemies first.
Kanafani urged Washington to pursue Arab-Israeli peace talks. "Our
position in support of peace is clear," she told Reuters.
Iran dismissed Bush´s charge that it is secretly pursuing nuclear
weapons and his description of the Islamic republic as the "world´s
primary state sponsor of terror".
"These claims have no basis," the state news agency IRNA quoted
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi as saying.
"Americans are ignoring the established democracy in Iran since the
(1979 Islamic) revolution."
Bush´s remarks enraged Iran´s conservative state-controlled media.
State television accused him of trying to capture Middle East oil
under the pretext of promoting democracy in the region.
"Why is Bush only interested in promoting democracy in oil-rich
regions?" asked one radio commentator.
Tehran says its nuclear facilities will only be used for power
Europe does not publicly challenge that stance, but an EU trio of
Germany, France and Britain is urging Iran to scrap processes that
could be used to make atomic bombs in return for trade incentives
and help with a civilian nuclear programme.
"We are working with European allies to make clear to the Iranian
regime that it must give up its uranium enrichment program and any
plutonium reprocessing, and end its support for terror," Bush said.
Iran´s state television accused Washington of inconsistency by
staying silent about Israel´s suspected nuclear arsenal.
Bush, citing recent elections in Iraq, the Palestine territories and
Afghanistan, also said "hopeful reform is already taking hold in an
arc from Morocco to Jordan to Bahrain."
He appealed to Saudi Arabia and Egypt to follow suit, in words
almost identical to language he used in November 2003.
"The government of Saudi Arabia can demonstrate its leadership in
the region by expanding the role of its people in determining their
future," Bush said.
There was no comment from Riyadh, due to hold its limited municipal
council polls in the capital this month in a cautious response to
pressure to liberalise its absolute monarchy.
Cairo chose to see as benign Bush´s statement that Egypt "can show
the way toward democracy" in the Middle East.
Asked if he saw Bush´s remarks as a criticism, Egyptian presidential
spokesman Suleiman Awad said: "Not at all."
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has strongly hinted that he will
seek a fifth six-year term in office this year, despite some
opposition from reformists seeking constitutional change.
Dia el-Din Dawoud, head of the left-wing Nasserist party in Egypt,
said Bush should not meddle in Egyptian politics.
"We don´t want constitutional or democratic reform in Egypt, or in
any Arab country, to be merely a response to American pressure (but)
to the interests of the people and popular pressure," he said. (©
Reuters 2005 02/03/05)
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