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U.S.: Ex-Iraqi intel chief in Syria


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Despite the Syrian government's continued denials, U.S. officials were adamant Wednesday that Farouk Hijazi, former chief of Saddam Hussein's Mukhabbarat intelligence service, is in Syria.

One knowledgeable U.S. official said specifically that Hijazi arrived Tuesday in Syria "on a direct flight from Tunis."

Hijazi entered Syria on an Iraqi diplomatic passport, U.S. officials said. Hijazi had most recently been Iraq's ambassador to Tunisia. The Syrian Foreign Ministry denied the claims Wednesday.

Some U.S. officials have expressed anger at the Syrians for allegedly harboring Hijazi, because he is suspected of involvement in the unsuccessful plot by Iraqi intelligence to kill former President George H.W. Bush, the president's father, in Kuwait in 1993.

Hijazi had asked for permission to enter Syria, but his request was denied, Syrian officials told reporters. They said they don't know where he went after the collapse of Saddam's government.

U.S. officials have increased the pressure on Damascus in recent days over the accusation that Syria is harboring fleeing members of Saddam's former regime.

Monday, Secretary of State Colin Powell threatened sanctions against Damascus. At the same time, the administration has said there are no immediate plans to expand the war with Iraq to Syria.

Sunday, President Bush warned Syria against harboring Saddam loyalists, and said U.S. officials "believe there are chemical weapons in Syria."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said intelligence shows Syria has allowed its citizens and others to cross the border into Iraq armed with weapons and carrying leaflets indicating rewards are available for killing Americans and members of coalition.

So far, however, U.S. officials have not provided much public evidence to support its accusations.

Tuesday, Syria's deputy ambassador to the United States cautioned the United States was starting to look like a country "that wants to attack one small country after another."

CNN National Security Correspondent David Ensor contributed to this report.


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