Iraq asks Syria to detain insurgents

The Iraqi government on Thursday called on Syria to detain "dangerous" insurgents who fled across the border to escape a joint U.S.-Iraqi military operation in the area this month. Government spokesman Laith Kubba also said that insurgent attacks are expected to rise before the Dec. 15 general elections. He said attacks by "Muslim extremists and Saddam (Hussein's) criminals" will be their last stand.

Kubba said after the elections there will be a fully constitutional elected government and parliament representing all provinces of Iraq as well as a reconciliation conference early next year.

"Muslim extremists will be surrounded then wiped out," he said, adding that "I don't think this will happen in a short period." U.S. and Iraqi officials have accused Syria for months of allowing foreign fighters to cross into Iraq. Kubba said Thursday that "some elements" had slipped back across the frontier into Syrian sanctuaries "so we ask the Syrian government to capture them and hand them over."

"Those elements that crossed into Syria are dangerous and some are wanted for crimes that they have committed," he said.

Some 2,500 U.S. troops and 1,000 Iraqi soldiers launched "Operation Steel Curtain" on Nov. 5 in several towns near the Syrian border. The U.S. military said 10 U.S. Marines and 139 insurgents were killed in the operation, which ended last week.

"No one is accusing the Syrian government but we expect from the Syrian government a better performance," Kubba said. "There are people who fled during the latest operations and we know that Syria has very tight security. We call them upon to detain them."

During his weekly news conference, Kubba also predicted a "clear reduction" in the number of U.S. and other international troops next year as Iraqis assume greater responsibility for their own security, reports the AP.

"Everybody is waiting for the new National Assembly that will be formed" after the election, he said. "We should not forget that this new National Assembly can ask these forces to leave within one day but whether this is a responsible or irresponsible decision it will be up to them." I.L.

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