'Psychological warfare'

Some US officials have linked the raid to apparent Israeli suspicions of secret nuclear cooperation between Damascus and North Korea.

Damascus and North Korea have denied any nuclear cooperation.

Al-Shara, who was speaking after a meeting in Damascus with Adel Abdul-Mahdi, his Iraqi counterpart, said his country did not want war "in the distant or near future".

He said: "Everything reported about this raid is wrong and is part of a psychological warfare that will not fool Syria."

Al-Shara said the raid was also aimed at boosting the morale of the Israeli military, after its failure to crush the Lebanese movement Hezbollah, in last year's war.

He said: "They want to rehabilitate the Israeli army after the Lebanese resistance broke it. But what Israel needs is to rehabilitate the Israeli mind, only then will a real opportunity for genuine peace be created."

'Photo opportunities'

Peace talks between Syria and Israel, who are formally at war, collapsed in 2000 over the scope of an Israeli pullout from the Golan Heights, a plateau which Israel captured from Syria in 1967.

The US has said it will invite Syria to an international conference in November to try to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Al-Shara said the meeting would not succeed without pressure on Israel to withdraw from all the Arab land it occupied in 1967 in exchange for peace, including the Golan.

He said: "Anything else and the meeting will be worthless. We don't need more photo opportunities."

Defending neighbours

 

Meanwhile, Iraq's vice president said on Saturday that his country will not be used as a base to launch attacks against Iran or Syria.

 

Adel Abdul-Mahdi said he discussed security and other regional issues with Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, during their meeting on Saturday.

 

In response to a reporter's question about a possible US military strike against Iran, the Iraqi vice president said: "Iraq does not accept that its territory be used for any aggression against any neighbouring country."

 

"Iraq has an (Arab) identity which it is keen on and will defend," he told reporters at the Damascus Airport at the end of a three-day visit to Syria.

 

Abdul-Mahdi said Syria had an important role to play in the political process of Iraq due to its "weight" in the Arab world.