DAMASCUS -- Syria warned yesterday that it has the right to defend itself if Israel attacks again, and said that relations with the United States were deteriorating because of the Israeli airstrike.
The Foreign Ministry commented nearly a week after Israeli warplanes bombed a camp outside Damascus last Sunday, saying it was a training camp for the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad. The group had claimed responsibility for a suicide attack in Israel the day before that left 19 people dead.
"Syria has the right to exercise its right to self-defense . . . in all available ways," Bushra Kanafani, a spokeswoman for Syria's Foreign Ministry, told reporters in Damascus.
She declined to elaborate, saying self-defense has different forms.
Kanafani said relations between Syria and the United States are worse than they had been for years because of US support of Israel.
Syria presented a motion to the UN Security Council calling on the world body to condemn Israel, but the council postponed a vote. The United States has warned it would veto any motion that did not also condemn the suicide bombing.
"When the United States says that Israel is defending itself when it attacks an abandoned civilian target under untrue pretexts and threatens to use its [UN] veto against condemnation . . . this will have negative results on relations," she said.
Kanafani said the camp targeted by Israel was abandoned by Palestinian militants years ago.
Tensions have been rising in recent months between the United States and Syria, mainly over Iraq. The United States says Syria lets insurgents slip across the border to fight coalition soldiers.
Kanafani denied that, saying it is hard to control such a long border. She hinted that Syria could help calm the situation in Iraq.
"Syria has many friends in Iraq and . . . we can play a constructive role in the advancement in the chaotic situation in Iraq," she said. "Cutting the dialogue with Syria, accusing Syria of raising problems through people going through the border is not going to help our constructive role in Iraq."
On Wednesday, Congress gave preliminary approval for sanctions to be imposed on Syria, a move that Western diplomats said could lead to more damaging US measures. The sanctions bill calls on Syria to stop sponsoring terrorists and seeking weapons of mass destruction, and to pull its troops out of neighboring Lebanon.