Interim Iraqi Defence Minister Hazim Shaalan had on Wednesday accused Iranian and Syrian intelligence agents, plus former operatives from Saddam Hussein's security forces, of cooperating with the purported al-Qaida group in Iraq that is allegedly headed by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

 

However, he did not provide evidence of his claims.

 

The Syrian Foreign Ministry on Thursday dismissed Shaalan's accusations as "baseless".

 

"Syria sees the repeat of fabricated accusations as reflecting the wish of some people to hide the real reasons behind the deterioration of the situation in Iraq, and to mislead the public opinion," the ministry said in Damascus.

 

Readiness to cooperate

 

The statement said that Syria "supports Iraq's security and stability and the upcoming election process" - a reference to the Iraqi elections scheduled for January.

Both Syria and Iran reject Iraqi
claims of their involvement

The ministry said Syria wanted "to work within our capabilities to control the [Syrian-Iraqi] borders" against foreigners trying to infiltrate into Iraq.

 

 "We have already declared our readiness to cooperate and coordinate with the interim Iraqi government in this regard and in other security aspects," it said.

 

Iraq's stability is not only in Iraq's interest, "but also in the interest of Syria and the entire region," it said. 

 

Iran's reaction

For his part, Iran's Interior Minister Abd al-Wahid Mousavi-Lari said in response to Shaalan's comments: "It seems he has a mission to say such things.

"I have always thought his remarks were because he was young, inexperienced and immature. But now I believe he has been ordered by his masters to say such things," he said.

Iran condemned the US-led invasion of Iraq last year, and Iranian officials have accused Iraqi officials of being mouthpieces for their "US masters".

Tehran says Iraqis alone should determine the fate of their country and "occupation forces" should leave the nation.