Iraqi, Syrian officials meet in Turkey to discuss tensions

ANKARA, Sept 15, 2009 (AFP) - Officials from Iraq and Syria are to meet Tuesday to discuss tensions stemming from Iraqi accusations that militants based in Syria are responsible for bomb attacks in Baghdad, Turkish and Iraqi officials said.

The meeting in Ankara is to focus "on intelligence issues on technical level," a Turkish government official told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that it was meant to prepare the ground for higher-level talks between the two sides planned for Thursday in Istanbul.

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari is to represent Iraq in Thursday's talks, while the Syrian representative is not yet known. Zebari was already scheduled to be in Istanbul on Thursday for separate talks between Iraq and Turkey.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the Iraqi delegation would present evidence backing allegations that terrorist groups based in Syria orchestrated deadly bombings in Baghdad.

"The evidence includes confessions, communications, financing and logistic support by people living in Syria and who have relations with Al-Qaeda," he said in Baghdad on Monday.

Dabbagh was referring to the August 19 truck bombings, dubbed "Bloody Wednesday," that killed 95 people and wounded 600 at the finance and foreign ministries in the Iraqi capital.

Turkey has been acting as a peacebroker in the crisis sparked by Iraq and Syria's tit-for-tit recall of envoys last month, six days after the attacks in Baghdad.

The row was triggered by Baghdad alleging that Syria was harbouring two Baathist leaders who plotted the finance ministry bombing.

The flare-up threw into disarray extensive efforts in the past year to boost ties between the countries, which had been weak under former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and his Baathist rule but had recently been improving.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has alleged that 90 percent of foreign terrorists who infiltrate Iraq do so via Syria.

However, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has dismissed allegations that his country shelters militants suspected of involvement in the August 19 attacks as "immoral" and politically motivated.

Assad is also to travel to Ankara on Wednesday.

Source: AFP

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