Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa, talking to reporters in Damascus Wednesday, said that there were differences between him and the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia ahead of their discussions in the United States last week on the Mideast crisis.
The Syrian minister said the three ministers, who met with U.S. President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell, were not "authorized" to negotiate on behalf of the Arabs. "They were chosen by the U.S. and not by the Arab League." However, he concluded that relations with the three Arab countries were "normal."
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher has said that he and his Jordanian and Saudi colleagues did not need an authorization from Syria or other Arab nations on an Arab League committee to talk with the Bush administration.
Meanwhile, al-Sharaa said U.S.-Syrian relations are unstable because of Washington's bias in favor of Israel. However, The Washington Post reported in its Thursday’s edition that Syria had intensified intelligence-sharing with the United States to unprecedented levels since Sept. 11.
According to Syrian and regional analysts and officials, the relationship between U.S. intelligence agencies and Syria's security apparatus is not approaching the level of intimacy that the United States enjoys with Jordan and Egypt, but Syria has shown an openness in working with the United States against al Qaeda.
Syria's secular Baath Party government has always been wary of al Qaeda-style Muslim fundamentalism, the U.S. daily conveyed. So when Saudi and other fighters began drifting through Syria after the collapse of Taliban rule in Afghanistan last fall, the government arrested them. Syria is detaining more than 20 former al Qaeda fighters, intelligence officials said.
U.S. officials have confirmed that information provided by the Syrian government saved American lives by heading off a militant attack planned for earlier this year. Sources in the region said the plot was aimed at U.S. troops stationed in the Arab Gulf area but declined to be more specific.
More recently, Syria has cooperated with U.S. officials in the capture and interrogation of Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a Syrian-born German citizen who recruited Mohamed Atta and two other Sept. 11 hijackers into an al Qaeda cell based in Hamburg.
According to regional security officials, other people have been arrested in Syria at U.S. request and numerous investigative files have been opened to U.S. authorities. (Albawaba.com)
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