Iraq denounces U.S. raid into Syria

The Iraq government has denounced a U.S. air strike that hit a farm and killed eight civilians in a community just inside the Syria border.

Raid into Syria killed top al-Qaeda operative: U.S. official

Iraq's government has denounced a U.S. air strike that hit a farm and killed eight civilians in a community just inside the Syria border.

"The Iraqi government rejects U.S. aircraft bombarding posts inside Syria," said Ali al-Dabbagh, Iraq's chief spokesman.

Four U.S. helicopters attacked a compound Sunday in the Albou Kamal area of eastern Syria, about eight kilometres from the Iraq border. Eight civilians were killed, according to Syrian officials.

An American official said U.S. forces carried out a raid inside Syria to kill a top al-Qaeda operative in Iraq.

The operative, known as Abu Ghadiyah, was the leader of a network that moves foreign fighters linked to al-Qaeda into Iraq, and the United States was acting on information that he was planning to launch an attack in Iraq, the U.S. official told the Associated Press.

Speaking on condition of anonymity because the raid was classified, the official said Ghadiyah was killed.

But Syria has denied Ghadiyah was in the area where the raid occurred.

"What they are saying is just unjustified," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem told Reuters on Tuesday.

The Iraq constitution does not allow the country to be used as a staging ground to attack its neighbours, Dabbagh said.

Iraq has opened an investigation into the incident and is urging U.S. forces not to repeat cross-border attacks, he said.

Dabbagh said Iraq is also calling for a halt to insurgent activity in Syria.

Iraq "reiterates its demand to halt all activities of organizations that are using Syria as a staging ground to arm and train terrorists that are targeting Iraq," Dabbagh said.

Syrian outcry

The raid, however, resulted in outcry from Syria, which called the attack outrageous and an act of terrorism.

Muallem said on Monday that Syria would defend its territory if its borders were violated again.

Labid Abbawi, a senior official with the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, said that the country is "trying to contain the fallout from the incident."

"It is regrettable and we are sorry it happened," Abbawi said.

Meanwhile, the Syrian cabinet decided on Tuesday to shut down an American school and cultural centre in Damascus.

Security pact

Tuesday's criticism, Iraq's first official statement on the raid, comes amid efforts to win approval for a new U.S.-Iraqi security agreement.

Iraq's cabinet sent proposed amendments to the pact to U.S. negotiators on Tuesday.

The proposed changes were agreed upon by Iraqi cabinet members on Tuesday and address both wording and content, Dabbagh said.

Iraqi Shia leaders have been concerned that the accord does not prevent U.S. forces from using Iraq as a base for attacks on its neighbours.

The raid may complicate efforts to win approval for the new deal by drawing attention to the fact that Iraq can't control everything American forces do.

The proposed deal would allow American troops to stay in Iraq through 2011 to help build up Iraq's own forces and fight the remaining al-Qaeda militants and Shia extremists.

U.S. officials have insisted the agreement respects Iraqi sovereignty.

But criticisms over the security agreement have alleged Iraqis cannot take control of their own country as long as large numbers of U.S. military forces remain on their soil.

The raid could encourage Syria and Iran to step up pressure on Iraqi legislators to reject the proposed deal.

Parliament must approve the measure before the UN mandate for the multinational forces in Iraq expires on Dec. 31.

With files from the Associated Press