Damascus says Lebanon, Syria face same militant threat

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syria and Lebanon must cooperate in fighting terrorism, the Syrian foreign minister said in comments on Wednesday, linking the threat faced by both neighbors which have recently been targeted by militants.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem told Lebanon’s as-Safir newspaper that the uncovering of “terrorist cells” in both countries had shown that “the source of danger to both countries is one.”

“There must be cooperation in confronting those terrorists,” the Lebanese newspaper quoted him as saying.

Moualem was due to hold talks in Damascus on Wednesday with Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh expected to focus on steps toward establishing diplomatic relations.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a decree on Tuesday to establish formal ties for the first time since the two states’ independence in the 1940s.

Authorities in Syria and Lebanon have accused Islamist militants of carrying out the recent bomb attacks.

Syria says a suicide bomber was behind the September 27 Damascus bombing that killed 17 people, while the Lebanese army said on Sunday it had detained Islamist militants who carried out two attacks in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. The August 13 and September 29 attacks in Tripoli both targeted the army and killed a total of 22 people, including 15 soldiers.

Assad has warned of a growing threat from militants in northern Lebanon and accused foreign states of supporting them.

Syria has said the car used in the Damascus bombing came from a neighboring Arab state, but has not said which one. Syria’s Arab neighbors are Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan.

Syria kept a tight grip on security in Lebanon until 2005 when international pressure triggered by the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri forced Damascus to end a 29-year military presence in the country.

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