Secretary Of State Gen. Colin Powell accused Syria of harboring officials from Saddam Hussein’s government, and threatened economic or diplomatic sanctions.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer called Syria a “terrorist state” and a “rogue nation.”
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claimed Syria had carried out chemical weapons tests in the last year.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon jumped on the opportunity and called Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “dangerous.” He urged Washington to put “very heavy … political and economic pressure” on Syria.
Meanwhile, a Palestinian gunman, an Israeli officer and two Israeli civilians were killed today. The gunman hurled grenades and sprayed automatic weapons fire at a customs area between Israel and the Gaza strip. Hamas said the attack was revenge for Israel’s killing of one of its top commanders. Another Palestinian was killed by Israeli tank fire in the Southern Gaza strip city of Rafah.
Arab countries, Russia and the European Union criticized the US rhetoric.
Arab League Secretary General Amr Musa said he is astounded by the threats.
An advisor to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned the Americans against the temptation to “target one Arab country after another”.
Earlier, Russia and the European Union urged the US to show restraint.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan warned that statements directed at Syria could destabilize the whole Middle East.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair tried to reassure his parliament and pledged there are no plans to invade Syria.
And the Syrian foreign ministry spokeswoman Bouthana Shaaban said: “the only country in the region which has chemical, biological and nuclear weapons is Israel”.
The Washington Post reports senior administration officials claim there are no plans to invade Syria.
- Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary.
- Edward Said, University Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He is the author of many works, including Culture and Imperialism and Orientalism.
- Patrick Seale, British journalist who has covered the Middle East for over 30 years specializing in Syria. He is the author of “Asad: The Struggle for the Middle East.”