UNITED NATIONS - Syria's foreign minister told the United Nations on Tuesday that the US "war on terror" has failed and that US policies caused the September 11 attacks.
Foreign Minister Walid Muallem condemned Israel's war against Hezbollah in Lebanon before the UN General Assembly and said the "logjam" in Middle East peace efforts meant further confrontation was likely.
Muallem spoke hours after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced in a newspaper interview that the United States hoped to persuade its allies to back new sanctions against Syria over its purported role in destabilizing Lebanon and Iraq and supporting the Palestinian movement Hamas.
Highlighting the fifth anniversary of the September 11 strikes, Muallem blamed US policies for increased international tensions.
"Years after the war on terror began, one asks has the world become a safer place? It is clear that the war did not achieve its objectives, and that terror has become more widespread.
"This could be explained by the fact that the exclusive use of force in facing up to terrorism is useless unless the root causes of terrorism are addressed."
He added: "We believe the 'war on terror' was misused at times. It looked as if it was masking a clash of cultures and civilizations" which encouraged extremists.
Muallem said the September 11 dead in New York and Washington were "the victims of (US) policies that were proven wrong in the Arab and other regions of the world.
"Many innocent people in places so distant from the United States of America have unfortunately paid the price of these failed policies.
"Tragically enough we all end up paying the price when the decision-makers in Washington believe they know better, and are in a better position to understand and grasp the needs and circumstances of the Arabs."
The Syrian minister called for a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon after the August conflict and condemned what he called its "brutal war" with Hezbollah in Lebanon.
"The deep-rooted anger and resentment consuming our region, particularly after the senseless war against Lebanon, and the continued logjam in the efforts for peace constitute a dangerous and critical situation and can only lead to confrontation instead of peace," he said.
The minister highlighted that Syria had promised to cooperate with UN resolution 1701 on the Lebanon conflict and had taken action to "control is borders" with Lebanon. Israel has accused Syria of being a staging post for arms shipments to the Hezbollah militia.
Muallem also expressed Syrian support for the new government in Iraq and said Damascus wanted to cooperate with the Baghdad government.
The United States has accused Syria of backing anti-US insurgents in Iraq, contributing to the Lebanon conflict by helping Hezbollah and of involvement in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri.
The US secretary of state told the Wall Street Journal: "We're going to have to look at tougher measures if Syria continues to be on the path that it's on."
In the interview published Tuesday, Rice said Syria had effectively entered into an alliance with Iran, which she also accused of destabilizing the region through its support for Hezbollah, Hamas and Iraqi insurgents.
"The Syrians look as if they've made their choice and their choice is to associate with extremist forces in Iran, not with their ... traditional partners like the Arab states," she told the Journal.
US President George W. Bush extended in May a ban on some US exports to Syria, including military equipment, and renewed a freeze on the accounts of Syrians accused of supporting terror organizations.