US backs Iraq-Syria border talks
By Nick Childs
BBC Pentagon correspondent
The US wants something done about the porous Syria-Iraq border
A joint delegation from the US military and Iraq's interim government is having talks in Damascus on ways to improve security on the Syrian-Iraqi border.
US commanders have said the flow of insurgents across the border represents a major threat.
The bilateral talks are expected to last two days.
Syria will have to show results very quickly in terms of co-operating with a crackdown on Iraqi insurgents, a US government official told the BBC.
A US diplomatic delegation visited Syria earlier this month.
There has been a notably warmer public tone in US-Syrian relations in the last couple of weeks.
No less a figure than US Secretary of State Colin Powell said last week at the United Nations that he hoped Damascus now understands the need to co-operate on the flow of insurgents across the Syrian-Iraqi border.
But the Americans have remained cautious, saying they need to see results.
And that caution is accentuated behind the scenes, at least in some parts of the US government.
One senior official told the BBC that a US delegation that visited Damascus earlier this month had given the Syrians what he described as "a very blunt warning".
The military talks on border co-operation now, he suggested, are one way to test whether Damascus has got the message.
But the official insisted it was not a question just of border controls.
"We are convinced that Iraqi extremists are organising and fundraising inside Syria with the acquiescence of the Syrian government," he said.
"This has to stop," he added, "and we'd like to see some results very quickly."
The focus on this issue now seems to reflect both US concerns over developments in Iraq, with the insurgency apparently gaining momentum, and the fact that Washington may feel it has some real leverage at the moment on Damascus, which currently appears particularly isolated, with new UN pressure over its presence in Lebanon.
The US official said Washington had delivered a tough message on that issue too.
Nice. Only 16 months after it should have been given.
I think that people have been too obsessed with the fairly amatuerish and localised Iranian interference in the South, while the Syrian interference has been much more dangerous, Syria is a safe haven for the former Baathist's in Iraq. Syria has been funnelling in a lot of well trained insurgents and weapons to all of Iraq.