US wants Iraq to stop arms reaching Syrian gov't

AP News
Posted: Mar 16, 2012 3:28 PM
US wants Iraq to stop arms reaching Syrian gov't

The Obama administration expressed concern Friday that Iranian planes may be ferrying weapons over Iraq to Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, and asked Baghdad to cut off its airspace to any such flights.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Iranian arms exports are banned by a U.N. Security Council resolution. She said Iranian cargo flights are crossing Iraq and that the U.S. is worried about possible weapons shipments.

"Any arms sent to the Syrian regime at this time would obviously be used in the brutal repression that the regime is exacting on its own people," Nuland told reporters. She said the U.S. was speaking with Iraq to ensure that it isn't aiding and abetting a U.N. violation by helping to arm the Syrian regime.

Washington has consistently criticized Iran for supporting Assad's government during a yearlong crackdown on protesters and armed opponents. Iraq, which is sandwiched by longtime allies Iran and Syria, also has been a main source for the rebels' weapons.

In Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said his country would seek to stem the flow of weapons in general, and especially those being smuggled into Syria. He said Iraq would not allow its land or sky to be a conduit for weapons heading in any direction or from any source.

For air and land cargo, al-Maliki said Iraq was inspecting and verifying that shipments are carrying goods and not weapons. He voiced support for a political solution to the violence in Syria, which has killed more than 8,000 people since Arab Spring demonstrations spread there last March.