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U.S. envoy: Syria tightens border control

By Associated Press
Published January 3, 2005

DAMASCUS, Syria - The State Department's No. 2 official said Sunday that Syria had improved security along its border with Iraq but needed to do more to keep armed supporters of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from sneaking across.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage arrived in Syria for talks with officials on Syria's alleged role in the Iraqi insurgency and the infiltration of fighters across the border into Iraq.

"Syria has made some real improvements in recent months on border security. But we all need to do more, particularly on the question of former regime elements participating in activities in Iraq, going back and forth from Syria," Armitage told reporters in the capital, Damascus.

Armitage and Assistant Secretary of State William Burns met with Syrian President Bashar Assad and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa.

Measures to combat the movement of insurgents have taken on increasing importance as the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq approach. The insurgents are using violence in an attempt to disrupt the vote for a constitutional assembly.

Washington and Baghdad both have said that key support for the insurgency was coming from a half brother of Saddam Hussein and Baath Party leaders based in Syria.

[Last modified January 3, 2005, 02:20:23]

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