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OFFICIAL DENIES THAT SYRIA ASSISTS IRAQI INSURGENCY

Syria is denying mounting accusations by the United States and Iraq that Syria is a staging ground for the Iraqi insurgency, with key support coming from a half brother of Saddam Hussein and Baath Party leaders here.

Damascus has accused Washington of making it a scapegoat for American failures to quell the resistance in Iraq.

Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa struck a defiant tone during an address at the annual meeting of leaders of the National Progressive Front -- considered the country's highest ruling body -- in the most extensive comments yet by a senior Syrian official on the subject.

"They accuse Syria of sending money and arms," he said, but the Iraqi people "have plenty of money and arms, and we are the ones who worry about the movement of arms from Iraq to Syria."

Qassem Dawoud, Iraq's national security adviser, said the Iraqi interim government has evidence that Sabaawi al-Hassan, a half brother of Saddam, and leading Baathist Younis al-Ahmed are supporting the insurgency from Syria.

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