Iraq says on high alert for expected strike on Syria

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 28, 2013 9:11 AM
Iraq says on high alert for expected strike on Syria

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq has put its security forces on high alert ahead of an expected international strike on neighboring Syria, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Wednesday.

Western powers are weighing up options for possible military strikes against Syria following a suspected chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb last week that killed hundreds of civilians.

"All political and security powers in Baghdad, the provinces and all over Iraq, announce the highest level of alert," Maliki said in a weekly televised statement which focused mainly on Syria.

Iraqi authorities are taking necessary measures to prevent "dangerous developments which may result from the Syrian crisis and the talk about an expected strike," he said.

Iraq has reinforced security along its 680 km (422 miles) desert border with Syria, making it the most heavily guarded Iraqi frontier. Iraq's Shi'ite-led government says Syria's civil war is fuelling attacks in Iraq by al Qaeda-linked groups, who have been operating on both sides of the frontier.

The Baghdad government, which opposes any international military strike on Syria, is struggling with its own Sunni Islamist insurgency and sectarian tensions have risen since the start of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a member of the Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

(Reporting by Raheem Salman, Writing by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Jon Boyle)