By Jeffrey Stinson, USA TODAY
LONDON — Syria is showing signs that it could help improve security in Iraq but Iran is doing little and may be making the situation worse, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said today.
Blair said that he was prepared to work with Syria and Iran to bring stability to Iraq and the rest of the Mideast region if they are prepared to help. "But the issue is: are they prepared to do so?" he said.
Blair made his remarks in the House of Commons after announcing that Britain would be pulling 1,600 of its 7,100 troops out of southern Iraq in coming months.
Syria has indicated that it is increasingly worried about the role that al-Qaeda is playing, Blair said. And, he said, "there are some tentative signs" that the Syrian government could help the security situation.
However, he said, the Damascus government is not helping the security situation in neighboring Lebanon, where it supports the militant Shiite group Hezbollah. Hezbollah is calling for the Lebanese government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora to step down and has launched massive protests and sit-ins against the government since November.
Iran, Blair said, may be contributing to destabilizing Iraq by allowing weapons to cross the border.
"It is perfectly obvious to us," he said, that some of weapons being used in Iraq are of "Iranian origin." And some of the weapons are being used against British soldiers, he said.
"No one can be sure of the precise degree to which those at senior levels of the Iranian government are complicit," he said. "But it's certainly very clear that that's the origin of that weaponry."
Blair also said that Iran appeared determined to develop nuclear weapons, despite sending out "mixed signals."
"The statements emanating from Iran are contradictory, but … their nuclear weapons ambitions appear to continue," he said.
Iran said today it will press ahead with its nuclear fuel program, ignoring a U.N. deadline to freeze uranium enrichment or face broader economic sanctions. At the same time, it offered to guarantee it would not try to develop atomic weapons.
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