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|US Tells Iran, Syria, N. Korea: "Learn From Iraq"|
ROME April 9 (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday warned countries it has accused of pursuing weapons of mass destruction, including Iran, Syria and North Korea, to "draw the appropriate lesson from Iraq."
John R. Bolton, US undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, also appealed to Syria and other countries in the Middle East to open themselves up to "new possibilities" for peace in the region.
"With respect to the issue of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the post-conflict period, we are hopeful that a number of regimes will draw the appropriate lesson from Iraq that the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is not in their national interest," Bolton told a news conference.
Bolton, in Rome for meetings with Vatican and Italian officials, specifically mentioned Syria, North Korea and Iran in his comments in response to a question about what the postwar period would hold.
Iran has said its nuclear programmes are for peaceful purposes, while Syria has denied US charges of shipping military supplies to Baghdad and lawmakers have accused the United States of double standards in its support for Israel.
North Korea has sparked an international crisis with a suspected revival of its nuclear arms programme.
Bolton was asked about a US poll that showed that half of the United States population supports US military action against Iran if it continues to move toward nuclear weapons development and 42 percent of those surveyed said the United States should take action against Syria if it was helping Iraq.
"I think Syria is a good case where I hope that they will conclude that the chemicals weapons programme and the biological weapons programme that they have been pursuing are things that they should give up," said Bolton, a leading US hawk.
"It is a wonderful opportunity for Syria to foreswear the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and, as with other governments in the region, to see if there are not new possibilities in the Middle East peace process," he said.
Bolton said the United States' priority was "the peaceful elimination of these programmes" and that this was the guiding principle in Washington's attitude towards North Korea and Iran.
Bolton met earlier with Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Vatican Foreign Minister, to discuss humanitarian efforts after the conflict and the Middle East situation in general.
Pope John Paul spearheaded the Vatican's efforts to avert war in Iraq, sending top envoys to both President George Bush and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
"The issue now is the future, turning to our common interests in providing humanitarian assistance to the people of Iraq, assisting in the reconstruction of the country, the rapid formation of a new government that would be representative of all the Iraqi people," Bolton said.
He also said he outlined to Vatican officials what he called "President Bush's determination" to move ahead with the Middle East peace process.
Bush, after meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Tuesday, promised to turn his focus to settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict once Saddam was removed from power.