Syria only sheltered kin of Iraqi leaders

WASHINGTON: Syria gave haven to families of Iraqi regime leaders, but not the leaders themselves, Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview in the May 19 edition of US magazine Newsweek

“Some of them came to the border. They weren't allowed to come in,” he said of members of Saddam Hussein's regime.  

“We allowed families to come to Syria, women and children. But we were suspicious of some of the relatives – that they had positions in the past and were responsible for killings in Syria in the 80s,” Assad told the magazine. 

But he insisted that volunteers who entered Iraq via Syria to fight in support of Saddam crossed over a lengthy unsealed border. 

“The government of Syria had no relations with these volunteers or with “individuals who smuggled arms into Iraq,” Assad said. 

“We only have two official checkpoints from which you can enter Iraq, but the border is 500km. How can you close it? I told Mr Powell, 'you have an army, you control it.'“ 

US Secretary of State Colin Powell met with Assad in Damascus on May 3, following heated criticism from Washington over Syria's alleged links to anti-Israeli groups and the former Iraqi regime. – AFP  

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