Blair Says Syria, Iran Fear Stability and Democracy in Iraq
Gonzalo Vina, Bloomberg:
UK. Prime Minister Tony Blair said Syria and Iran are helping insurgents in Iraq because they fear a stable and democratic neighbor would destabilize their own regimes. ``The thing that would make Syria and Iran change the most is a stable and democratic Iraq,'' Blair said at his the monthly press conference at his Downing Street residence in London. ``There is a reason why Iran and Syria do their best to destabilize the situation in Iraq.''
Syria has been accused of failing to do enough to prevent foreign fighters and terrorists from slipping into Iraq through its porous border, and British forces have accused Iran of supplying weapons to Shiite fighters in southern Iraq. Syria also faces United Nations sanctions for alleged involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and Iran faces international pressure to stop its nuclear program.
U.S. and Iraqi military began an offensive along the Iraqi- Syrian border on Nov. 5 involving 3,500 troops to restore security and destroy any al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorist network operating in the area. The European Union will underline its ``grave concern'' over Iran's resumption of uranium enrichment, a step toward a potential showdown with Iran in the United Nations Security Council.
``We are going to have to find ways of ensuring Iran knows the strength of international feeling,'' Blair said today. Iran must ``face up to its responsibilities. Iran supports terrorism around the Middle East. It should stop it. Until it stops it there will be a deep dismay around the world.'' READ MORE
European Union foreign ministers will next week step up pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear-enrichment program, which Blair fears could lead terrorists attacking Western cities. Ministers will also warn Syria against obstructing the probe of the murder of Lebanon's former leader.
EU nations led by Britain, France and Germany already were attempting to stop Iran from any pursuit of nuclear weapons. In August, Iran resumed work enriching uranium, a step the U.S. has said may help it build an atomic bomb.
Tension in southern Iraq increased after the U.K. government claimed Iraqi insurgents were being supported by Iran while Iran claimed Britain backed militant Arab separatists in southwest Iran, Iraq's deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi said in the Financial Times today.
Syria will be warned of ``converging evidence'' of the involvement of Syrian officials in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and told to ``cooperate unconditionally'' with UN investigators, according to drafts of statements to be released at the ministers' Nov. 7 meeting.