"We will be contacting officials in Baghdad very soon to know the source and truth of these allegations against Syria and to get the Iraqi side to supply us with the documents and evidence for us to examine," Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara said in Damascus on Thursday.

 

"We will counter any accusation by evidence and facts and take this to the highest level," said al-Shara, speaking a day after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made the accusation against Syria at a global meeting to rally support for Iraq in Brussels.

 

Al-Shara also rejected US accusations that Syrian intelligence agents remain in Lebanon.

 

In a joint press conference he has held with his Chinese counterpart, al-Shara said the Syrian embassy in Baghdad would be reopened.
 
"Syria has decided to send a delegation to Iraq in order to review two issues. The first one is opening a Syrian embassy in Baghdad.

 

The second is making contacts with Iraqi officials in Baghdad, whether through the Foreign Ministry or diplomatic channels, in order to disclose the source and reality of accusations made against Syria," al-Shara said.

 

The Syrian embassy has been closed since the fall of Saddam Hussein after the US-led invasion in 2003. Several embassies now represent Syria's consular and political interests in Iraq.

 

Mutual recriminations

 

Syria hoped improved diplomatic and security ties with the US-backed Iraqi government would end the recriminations.

 

Rice made the accusation against
Syria on Wednesday in Brussels

"We are ready for cooperation and opening a new chapter with Iraq but we are not ready to hear every now and then accusations that may not have a basis of truth," he said

 

"We want to confirm by words and deeds how accurate these accusations are and what solutions could be found."

 

Syria again said obliquely the US was denying Damascus sophisticated monitoring to help it guard the desert border that straddles around 600 km.

 

"The party that prevents Syria from securing the special equipment to tighten its control of the border is the same party that levels charges against us," al-Shara said.

 

Impossible

 

The Syrian foreign minister said it was impossible to completely seal any border against infiltrators, citing Washington's failure to end large-scale smuggling of drugs into its own territory.

 

"Any borders in the world are vulnerable to infiltration, including that of the United States"

Farouq al-Shara,
Syrian F
oreign Minister

"Any borders in the world are vulnerable to infiltration, including that of the United States. Whose responsibility is the failure to prevent such quantities of drugs entering the US or is it the responsibility of other states?" al-Shara said.

 

Syria said this week that it had reinforced the vast desert border with more than 7000 troops who are manning 560 positions.

 

Damascus says the fortifications show how determined it is to secure the frontier from infiltrators it says are mostly ordinary smugglers, not diehard fighters.

 

The US State Department last month described Syrian cooperation as "minimal and sporadic".