a week from the US president to Tehran and Damascus to refrain from "meddling" in Iraq. AFP
WASHINGTON - President George W. Bush on Monday cautioned Iran and Syria not to interfere in Iraq's internal politics, saying the United States had a variety of ways to retaliate if the two countries failed to heed his warning.
The message is the second within a week from the US president to Tehran and Damascus to refrain from "meddling" in Iraq.
"When I said the other day that I expect these countries to honor the political process in Iraq without meddling, I meant it. And hopefully those governments heard what I said," Bush said at a news conference.
"We have sent messages to the Syrians in the past and we will continue to do so. We have tools at our disposal -- a variety of tools, ranging from diplomatic tools to economic pressure," he said.
The president told reporters he has consulted with US military officials about whether there are former Saddam loyalists in Syria funneling money to insurgents in Iraq.
"My attitude is if there's any question that they're there, we ought to be working with the Syrian government to prevent them from either sending money and/or support of any kind," Bush said.
Iraqi authorities and US-led forces are battling to neutralize Iraq's deadly insurgency ahead of general elections next month -- the first multi-party polls in the country in half a century.
Baghdad and Washington frequently blame long-time foe Iran and the Baathist regime in Syria for supporting the unrest in Iraq.