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March 29, 2003

More Syrian Threats

Following sharp on the heels of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s war threats, published yesterday in a Lebanese newspaper, Israeli officials are monitoring additional disturbing statements from Syrian leaders. The latest comes from the chief Shiite Mufti (religious leader) of Damascus, who has publicly urged Iraqi Shiites to resist the Western military advance by carrying out suicide attacks against US, UK and Australian ground forces. Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hizbullah leaders have made similar calls in recent days.

In Lebanon, one of the Shiite Hizbullah movement’s spiritual leaders, Sheik Muhammad Fadlallah, continues to call on all Iraqi Shiites (the largest religious community in Iraq) to confront coalition forces. He is known to have close ties to many Iraqi Shiite clerics, having studied at a Shiite university in the Iraqi holy town of Najaf—scene of heavy fighting this week. Reports say he has used his influence to block nascent contacts between Iraqi Shiite leaders and American officials.