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Syria's Assad slams Iraq over "immoral" charges

Assad says Baghdad's accusations against Damascus "immoral"

President Bashar al-Assad on Monday said allegations that Syria was sheltering people suspected of involvement in devastating bombings in Iraq were "immoral" and politically motivated.

His remarks were the latest salvo in an escalating war of words between the two neighbors since Iraqi officials accused Syria of complicity in a spike of militant attacks in Iraq.

His comments came as Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu embarked on a mediation bid between Baghdad and Damascus to defuse tensions which worsened last week when the neighbors recalled their respective ambassadors.

"Syria is accused of killing Iraqis although it welcomes 1.2 million Iraqis (refugees)," Assad said at a joint news conference with visiting Cyprus President Demetris Christofias.

"Such accusations are immoral and political," he said.

Iraq has accused Syria of sheltering suspects allegedly involved in one of two devastating truck bombings that targeted government ministries in Baghdad on Aug. 19, killing a total of 95 people and wounding 600.

"When accusations are not based on any proof, this means they are illogical in the eyes of the law," Assad said, again calling on Iraq to present evidence about its allegations.

"As soon as the accusations were made, Syria officially asked Iraq to send a delegation to Damascus with proof," he said. "So far we have not received any reply."

When accusations are not based on any proof, this means they are illogical in the eyes of the law

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said on Thursday ties between Iraq and Syria were in the balance, after they called home their respective envoys.

"Our relations with Syria have reached a crossroads of whether they choose to have good relations with Iraq, or whether they choose to protect persons who attack Iraq," Dabbagh said.

Meanwhile Turkey's foreign minister was in Baghdad on Monday for talks with Iraqi officials ahead of visiting Damascus later in the day in a bid to defuse the tensions.

Syria and Iraq, ruled by rival wings of the Baath party, were at odds for years after Saddam came to power in 1979, but ties improved and trade surged in the late 1990s.

Tensions resurfaced after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, with the U.S. and Iraqi governments accusing Syria of sheltering Saddam loyalists and letting Sunni insurgents stream into Iraq.

Our relations with Syria have reached a crossroads of whether they choose to have good relations with Iraq, or whether they choose to protect persons who attack Iraq

Iraqi government spokesman Ali-al-Dabbagh