Syria is a source of instability in the Middle East and it is time for them to make a strategic choice, a senior U.S administration official said Wednesday.
"They are a major disruptive force, they are disruptive in Iraq, they are disruptive of the efforts between Palestinians and Israelis to come up with a Middle East peace," he told reporters on condition of anonymity.
The official also said Syria is the main conduit for foreign militants fighting for al-Qaeda operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq.
"We're concerned that Zarqawi is supported by a foreign fighter network that gets foreign fighters largely through Syria," he said. "There are locations in Syria where foreign fighters and money and logistics come together and then transit to Iraq, and those foreign fighters and money come from elsewhere in the Muslim world."
Middle East stability top priority
Jordanian-born Zarqawi is a main figure behind the bombings, kidnappings and other attacks which have disrupted U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion which ousted President Saddam Hussein from power.
While Syria has taken "some cosmetic steps" to address the concerns of Iraq and the U.S. regarding the infiltration of foreign fighters into Iraq, it is "not nearly what they ought to be doing," the official said.
The Bush administration has made building democracy and stability in the Middle East a top priority but has had little success in its efforts to engage Syria.
"Syria in some sense has been a source of instability in the region, it is time for them to make a strategic choice and get on the other side on these issues," he said.