Syria criticizes Jordan for hosting rebel training
AMMAN, Jordan (AP) -- Syrian state media sharply criticized Jordan for hosting U.S.-backed training of Syrian rebels seeking to topple President Bashar Assad, warning Thursday that Amman risks falling into the "volcanic crater" of Syria's conflict.
The stern warning, broadcast by state radio and published in a front-page editorial in the daily al-Thawra, the mouthpiece of the Syrian government, will likely aggravate Jordan's security fears over the civil war in its northern neighbor.
Jordan worries that Syria could use chemical weapons against it, or that secret operatives linked to the Assad regime or the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah could carry out deadly attacks in the U.S.-allied kingdom.
U.S. and other Western and Arab officials say Jordan has been hosting training camps for Syrian rebels since last October. Those receiving training are mainly secular Sunni Muslim tribesmen from central and southern Syria who once served in the army and police.
The officials say the force is expected to fill a security vacuum -- mainly to protect the common border with Jordan, assist displaced Syrians and possibly set up a safe haven to shelter refugees -- if and when Assad is toppled. They are also envisioned as a counterbalance to the Islamic militant groups that have proven to be among the most effective of the myriad rebel factions fighting Assad's forces on the ground.
Chief among those extremist rebel groups is Jabhat al-Nusra, which the U.S. says is associated with al-Qaida and has designated a terrorist organization.
The officials said Jordan is also facilitating arms shipments to the same Syrian rebels.
Jordan fears that the chaos in Syria could lead to a broken state where Islamic militants have a free hand. Israel and the United States also are concerned about militants potentially operating in the area near the Israeli frontier with Syria in the Golan Heights.
Syrian state television said information on the training leaked by U.S. media show that Jordan "has a hand in training terrorists and then facilitating their entry into Syria," while state radio accused Jordan of "playing with fire."
Al-Thawra said Amman has adopted a policy of "double ambiguity," training the rebels, while publicly insisting on a "political solution" to the Syrian crisis.
"Despite the official Jordanian denial of a lot of statements and information, some of them are authenticated, yet its attempt to put out the flames of those leaked information doesn't allow it to move on with the game of mystery to the end because it is getting closer from the volcanic crater," al-Thawra warned.