DAMASCUS, Syria, April 12 (UPI) -- Syria's foreign minister said Saturday that U.S. accusations that Damascus was sheltering Iraqi officials and weapons of mass destruction were "baseless" and were meant to break the historical ties between Syria and the Iraqi people.
Farouk Sharaa said the U.S. threats were being made by a "fanatic" group within the U.S. administration that "does not even see the West's public interests in the Middle East," and he said that it "faces real dangers ... for resorting to military action in Iraq."
Sharaa spoke at a joint press briefing with French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, who is on a whirlwind tour of the Middle East this weekend.
"I tell you frankly they (U.S. officials) don't know what they want," he said. "Sometimes, they say you have weapons of mass destruction smuggled from Iraq to Syria. But they don't bring evidence or give us any sort of document. You must believe me. Let them deny what I am saying."
He continued: "These are baseless allegations. Until now, no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq despite that all of Iraq is occupied. So how would they accuse Syria of something they did not discover in Iraq?
"We are victimized. I am telling you from now."
He accused the United States of trying to target another country, whether Syria or another in the region, after it had taken military action in Afghanistan and Iraq before resolving problems in these two countries.
"They conquered Afghanistan. Is it stable?" he asked rhetorically, noting that the Americans had not been able to locate Osama bin Laden despite all the "highly sophisticated instruments" they have.
On Iraq, he said: "What can be seen after the fall of the regime? They cannot continue with these provocations. We have to stop them. What's happening is very dramatic, very horrible.
"Innocent people are killed for no reason while those who are not innocent are not killed ... What's happening now is the destruction of Iraq, its institutions and infrastructure."
Sharaa warned that "even the Israelis will pay the price in the future if they don't tell their friends in Washington to stop."
He said recent U.S. threats were meant to "break the historical and national ties between Syria and the Iraqi people," reminding his audience that Syria's relations with Saddam Hussein's regime were "not friendly for long years." Rival wings of the Baath Party took control of Syria and Iraq.
The French foreign minister held talks with Syrian president Bashar Assad on ways to end the Iraq crisis, Sharaa noted.
A source told United Press International that Villepan had expressed France's full support for Assad's modernization project and advised "not to give Washington any pretext for hitting Syria."
Villepin, who is visiting the region, said his visit came "at a decisive moment in the history of the Middle East and we should all bear our responsibilities in the region and the international community."
The French official emphasized Syria"s important role" regarding the Iraqi problem because "it's a border country with Iraq and a key country in the Middle East."
"Any solution should be comprehensive: peace in Iraq and in Palestine. We can't separate between the two," he said. "We want to be united to rebuild Iraq and thus we need the (U.N.) Security Council. We should restore confidence" between Europe and the United States.