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Syria plays on fears to American support of rebels

Syria says backing rebels risks new attacks on America U.S. support for Syrian rebels may lead to more attacks on American soil like those of September 11, said a senior Syrian official who warned that fighters would spread "the fire of terrorism" around the world. 10 days after the Boston Marathon bombings, Syria's deputy foreign minister told Reuters that U.S. aid to the rebels may backfire. "Once the fire of terrorism spreads in Syria it will go everywhere in the world," Faisal Mekdad said in an interview.

Referring to foreign fighters whose presence has made the United States and European allies wary of arming Syrian rebels, he said: "These chickens will go back to roost where they came from because encouraging terrorism definitely backfires ... Once these terrorists succeed in Syria, they will go everywhere."

Speaking in fluent English at the heavily guarded white, stone-clad complex in central Damascus which houses the Foreign Ministry and prime minister's offices, Mekdad drew a comparison, made also by Assad himself, with the U.S.-backed war against Soviet occupiers in Afghanistan that "fostered al Qaeda."

And asked whether the Boston bombings, blamed on Muslim immigrants, might change American views of a Syrian conflict that Assad has long painted as a war on terror, he replied: "I hope the American administration will remember again the Sept. 11 attack - which we strongly condemned in Syria - and not repeat these policies which encourage terrorism."

Of 37 nationalities of "terrorist" he said were fighting in Syria, many were European, Mekdad said, including some from Russia's Chechnya region, ancestral home of the Boston suspects.

Like other senior officials interviewed lately in Damascus, Mekdad projected a breezy confidence in Syrian forces' ability to win the civil war and denied the rebels were gaining ground.

While condemning support for the mainly Sunni Muslim rebels from Sunni neighbours such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, as well as the Western powers, he said his government enjoyed broad international support, not limited to Russia or to Iran.

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