US wants Iraq to stop arms reaching Syrian gov't

By BRADLEY KLAPPER | March 16, 2012 | 3:38 PM EDT

In this citizen journalism image provided by Edlib News Network, anti-Syrian regime protesters hold an Arabic banner which reads: "the fearful don't make the freedom and those who hesitate don't know the dignity," during a protest at Maaret Harma village, in Idlib, north Syria, on Friday, March 16, 2012. Kofi Annan, the international envoy on Syria, will send a mission to Damascus as soon as possible to discuss practical steps to implement his proposals to end the violence and killing. Syrian troops clashed with army defectors in several areas near the capital Damascus in the first significant battles there since President Bashar Assad's forces regained control of the suburbs weeks ago, activists said Friday. (AP Photo/Edlib News Network) THE ASSOCIATED PRESS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS HANDOUT PHOTO

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration expressed concern Friday that Iranian planes may be ferrying weapons over Iraq to Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, and asked Baghdad to cut off its airspace to any such flights.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Iranian arms exports are banned by a U.N. Security Council resolution. She said Iranian cargo flights are crossing Iraq and that the U.S. is worried about possible weapons shipments.

"Any arms sent to the Syrian regime at this time would obviously be used in the brutal repression that the regime is exacting on its own people," Nuland told reporters. She said the U.S. was speaking with Iraq to ensure that it isn't aiding and abetting a U.N. violation by helping to arm the Syrian regime.

Washington has consistently criticized Iran for supporting Assad's government during a yearlong crackdown on protesters and armed opponents. Iraq, which is sandwiched by longtime allies Iran and Syria, also has been a main source for the rebels' weapons.

In Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said his country would seek to stem the flow of weapons in general, and especially those being smuggled into Syria. He said Iraq would not allow its land or sky to be a conduit for weapons heading in any direction or from any source.

For air and land cargo, al-Maliki said Iraq was inspecting and verifying that shipments are carrying goods and not weapons. He voiced support for a political solution to the violence in Syria, which has killed more than 8,000 people since Arab Spring demonstrations spread there last March.