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Bush demands Syria be 'good neighbor'

Damascus told to control Iraq border, not interfere with Lebanon

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Syria
Iraq
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George W. Bush

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Wednesday called on Syria's government to be a "good neighbor" in the Middle East, warning Damascus not to interfere in Lebanon, incite Palestinian militants or allow insurgents to cross into Iraq.

"We're making good progress toward peace in the Holy Land, but one of the areas of concern is that foreign countries such as Syria might try to disrupt the peace process by encouraging terrorist activities," Bush said.

Bush said the government of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad must let Lebanon rule itself after 30 years under pro-Syrian governments and "not to agitate killers in the Palestinian territory." (Watch CNN's interview with Syria's president -- 22:40)

He also demanded that Damascus pay closer attention to its border with Iraq, where U.S. troops have battled an insurgency since the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

"We expect Syria to do everything in her power to shut down the transshipment of suiciders and killers into Iraq," Bush told reporters at the White House. "We expect Syria to be a good neighbor to Iraq."

U.S. officials have complained that insurgents, including Islamic militants linked to waves of suicide bombings, have been crossing into Iraq from Syria.

U.S. and Iraqi troops have launched recent offensives in towns near the border to crack down on insurgents, who have killed hundreds of U.S. troops since Bush declared an end to "major combat" in May 2003.

Bush's remarks came the same day that Syrian Interior Minister Ghazi Kanaan committed suicide after Lebanese television accused him of taking payoffs as commander of Syria's military intelligence corps in Lebanon.

U.N. investigators also had investigated Kanaan in connection with the February assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who had begun to urge a withdrawal of Syrian troops.

Hours before his death, Kanaan denied the bribery allegations in an interview with a Lebanese radio station and said he had no involvement in Hariri's death.

Protests sparked by Hariri's killing helped end the decades-long Syrian presence in Lebanon, with a withdrawal in April.

In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, Al-Assad denied his government had played a role in the death and said any Syrian official who did would be guilty of "treason."

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