Syrian official warns US: No unilateral airstrikes

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Syrian official warns US: No unilateral airstrikes
These Are The UN Peacekeepers From Fiji That Were Captured by The Al-Nusra Front. #Syria #Iraq http://t.co/rF2GXP6UOf
In a picture taken from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, a United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) convoy manoeuvres in the buffer zone as they are escorted by Syrian rebel fighters on a motorcycle near the Syrian village of Jubata Al Khashab on September 2, 2014. Al-Qaeda-linked Syria rebels who are holding more than 40 United Nations peacekeepers hostage in the Golan Heights are demanding they be expunged from a UN terror blacklist, Fiji revealed. AFP PHOTO/ MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
In a picture taken from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, a United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) convoy manoeuvres in the buffer zone as they are escorted by a Syrian rebel fighter on a motorcycle near the Syrian village of Jubata Al Khashab on September 2, 2014. Al-Qaeda-linked Syria rebels who are holding more than 40 United Nations peacekeepers hostage in the Golan Heights are demanding they be expunged from a UN terror blacklist, Fiji revealed. AFP PHOTO/ MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
A United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) car enters the UN headquarters, in the demilitarised zone, near the Quneitra border crossing in the Israeli annexed Golan Heights on September 2, 2014. Al-Qaeda-linked Syria rebels who are holding more than 40 United Nations peacekeepers hostage in the Golan Heights are demanding they be expunged from a UN terror blacklist, Fiji revealed. AFP PHOTO/ MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
In a picture taken from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, a United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) convoy manoeuvres in the buffer zone as they are escorted by Syrian rebel fighters on a motorcycle near the Syrian village of Jubata Al Khashab on September 2, 2014. Al-Qaeda-linked Syria rebels who are holding more than 40 United Nations peacekeepers hostage in the Golan Heights are demanding they be expunged from a UN terror blacklist, Fiji revealed. AFP PHOTO/ MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
A United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) convoy is escorted by an Israeli army vehicle on the border of the buffer zone near the Druze village of Buqaata in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on September 2, 2014. Al-Qaeda-linked Syria rebels who are holding more than 40 United Nations peacekeepers hostage in the Golan Heights are demanding they be expunged from a UN terror blacklist, Fiji revealed. AFP PHOTO/ MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Fiji says no word on location of UN peacekeepers seized by Syria militants http://t.co/pEnKhNcIuj http://t.co/x87CWdTn0U
#GolanHeights reports in Manila say #fiji peacekeepers held by Al Qaeda Nusra .#Filipino PKs refusing to disarm http://t.co/xblMTKuq66
Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Muallem (C) looks on following a press conference on August 25, 2014 in the Syrian capital Damascus. Any air strikes against jihadists in Syria must be coordinated with Damascus beforehand, Muallem said. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - AUGUST 24: Syrian people search for bodies of wounded and death Syrians after a bomb attack of Syrian regime forces on Syria's Zabadani region, close to the border with Lebanon in Damascus, Syria on 24 August, 2014. 10 people died during the bomb attack. (Photo by Yusuf al Bostany/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - AUGUST 24: Syrian people search for bodies of wounded and death Syrians after a bomb attack of Syrian regime forces on Syria's Zabadani region, close to the border with Lebanon in Damascus, Syria on 24 August, 2014. 10 people died during the bomb attack. (Photo by Yusuf al Bostany/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A Syrian living in Jordan shouts slogans against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a rally outside of the Syrian Embassy in the capital Amman, on August 21, 2014, as they gather to mark the first anniversary of a chemical weapons attack on the capital's Ghouta region, a stronghold of the rebel movement, which the United States estimated killed up to 1,400 people. Human Rights Watch said that hundreds of victims of a chemical weapons attack in Syria remained without justice one year on, days after Damascus's stockpile was completely destroyed. AFP PHOTO/KHALIL MAZRAAWI (Photo credit should read KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey hold a press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, August 21, 2014. Hagel warned that the Islamic State is more than a traditional 'terrorist group' and better armed, trained and funded than any recent threat. 'They marry ideology and a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess. They are tremendously well funded. This is beyond anything we have seen,' Hagel told reporters. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - AUGUST 18: Members of Syrian Islamic Front and Syrian opposition Mujahidin Brigade members guard to fight against the Islamic State (IS), formerly known Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) ,in Mari village, Aleppo, Syria on August 18, 2014. (Photo by Ahmed Hasan Ubeyd/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - AUGUST 17: A woman shows a photograph as more then thousand participants of several oriental christian groups gather to protest against the ongoing violence against their brethren in Iraq and Syria by ISIS fighters on August 17, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. Tens of thousands of Yazidis, who practice their own religion and are neither Christian nor Muslim have fled targeted violence from ISIS Muslim Sunni fighters in the region of northern Iraq that borders Syria and Kurdish regions. ISIS has targeted Christians and Shia Muslims as well. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
Demonstrators at a rally supporting Kurdistan hold placards protesting against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in front of the White House on August 16, 2014 in Washington, DC. Jihadists carried out a 'massacre' in the northern Iraqi village of Kocho, killing dozens of people, most of them members of the Yazidi religious minority, officials said on Saturday. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - AUGUST 15: A view of ruined buildings in El-Muleyha region of Damascus, seized by regime forces on previous day, in Damascus, Syria on 15 August, 2014. (Photo by Kasm Ebu Muhammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
HANOVER, GERMANY - AUGUST 16: Ethnic Yazidi wave flags and protest against the ongoing attacks against Yazidi in northern Iraq on August 16, 2014 in Hanover, Germany. Tens of thousands of Yazidi, who practice their own religion and are neither Christian nor Muslim, have fled targeted violence from ISIS Muslim Sunni fighters in the region of northern Iraq that borders Syria and Kurdish regions. An estimated 90,000 Yazidi live in Germany, more than in any other country in Europe. According to offical police sources, more than 10.000 demonstraters participated in the rally. (Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images)
THIS PICTURE WAS TAKEN ON A GOVERNMENT-GUIDED TOUR A Syrian government bulldozer clears the rubble and debris from a street in Mleiha on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on August 15, 2014. Syrian government forces retook the key town southeast of the capital on August 14, after a months-long battle against rebels, a military source and state television said. AFP PHOTO/LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
THIS PICTURE WAS TAKEN ON A GOVERNMENT-GUIDED TOUR Two men walk past the debris of building in Mleiha on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on August 15, 2014. Syrian government forces retook the key town southeast of the capital on August 14, after a months-long battle against rebels, a military source and state television said. AFP PHOTO/LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
THIS PICTURE WAS TAKEN ON A GOVERNMENT-GUIDED TOUR Syrian government forces gather around a map for instructions in Mleiha on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on August 15, 2014. Syrian government forces retook the key town southeast of the capital on August 14, after a months-long battle against rebels, a military source and state television said. AFP PHOTO/LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
THIS PICTURE WAS TAKEN ON A GOVERNMENT-GUIDED TOUR Syrian government forces flash the victory sign as they walk in a street in Mleiha on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on August 15, 2014. Syrian government forces retook the key town southeast of the capital on August 14, after a months-long battle against rebels, a military source and state television said. AFP PHOTO/LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - AUGUST 18: Members of Syrian Islamic Front and Syrian opposition Mujahidin Brigade members guard to fight against the Islamic State (IS), formerly known Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) ,in Mari village, Aleppo, Syria on August 18, 2014. (Photo by Ahmed Hasan Ubeyd/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - AUGUST 18: Members of Syrian Islamic Front and Syrian opposition Mujahidin Brigade members guard to fight against the Islamic State (IS), formerly known Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) ,in Mari village, Aleppo, Syria on August 18, 2014. (Photo by Ahmed Hasan Ubeyd/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - AUGUST 18: Members of Syrian Islamic Front and Syrian opposition Mujahidin Brigade members guard to fight against the Islamic State (IS), formerly known Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) ,in Mari village, Aleppo, Syria on August 18, 2014. (Photo by Ahmed Hasan Ubeyd/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - AUGUST 18: Members of Syrian Islamic Front and Syrian opposition Mujahidin Brigade members guard to fight against the Islamic State (IS), formerly known Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) ,in Mari village, Aleppo, Syria on August 18, 2014. (Photo by Ahmed Hasan Ubeyd/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - AUGUST 18: Members of Syrian Islamic Front and Syrian opposition Mujahidin Brigade members guard to fight against the Islamic State (IS), formerly known Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) ,in Mari village, Aleppo, Syria on August 18, 2014. (Photo by Ahmed Hasan Ubeyd/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - AUGUST 18: Members of Syrian Islamic Front and Syrian opposition Mujahidin Brigade members guard to fight against the Islamic State (IS), formerly known Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) ,in Mari village, Aleppo, Syria on August 18, 2014. (Photo by Ahmed Hasan Ubeyd/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - AUGUST 18: Some of Syrians flee from Mari village due to the threat of ISIL in Aleppo, Syria on August 18, 2014. Members of Syrian Islamic Front and Syrian opposition Mujahidin Brigade members guard to fight against the Islamic State (IS), formerly known Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). (Photo by Ahmed Hasan Ubeyd/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - AUGUST 18: Members of Syrian Islamic Front and Syrian opposition Mujahidin Brigade members guard to fight against the Islamic State (IS), formerly known Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) ,in Mari village, Aleppo, Syria on August 18, 2014. (Photo by Ahmed Hasan Ubeyd/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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By ZEINA KARAM
Associated Press

BEIRUT (AP) -- Syria's foreign minister warned the U.S. on Monday not to conduct airstrikes inside Syria against the Islamic State group without Damascus' consent, saying any such attack would be considered an aggression.

Walid al-Moallem's words appeared timed to try to pre-empt any U.S. military action in Syria. President Barack Obama has resisted ordering U.S. military action in Syria for three years, even after a deadly chemical weapons attack a year ago near Damascus he blamed on President Bashar Assad's government. But now, Obama faces pressure from his own military leaders to go after the Islamic State group inside Syria.

Obama remains wary, however, of getting dragged into the bloody and complex Syrian civil war that the United Nations says has killed more than 190,000 people.

Al-Moallem's remarks at a news conference in Damascus also marked the first public comments by a senior Assad official on the threat posed by the Islamic State group, which has captured large swaths of Iraqi and Syrian territory.

"Syria is ready to cooperate and coordinate on the regional and international level in the war on terror," al-Moallem said. "But any effort to combat terrorism should be coordinated with the Syrian government."

Al-Moallem appeared keenly aware of how much has changed in the past year as he spoke Monday. Since then, global disapproval has shifted away from Assad and toward the Islamic extremists who are fighting him and spreading destruction across Syria and Iraq.

The foreign minister said the Syrian government repeatedly has warned of the threat of terrorism and the need to cut off resources and funding but "no one listened to us." Syria's government has long described the rebels fighting to topple Assad as "terrorists" in a foreign conspiracy.

There is not much Syria can do, however, if the U.S. does decide to strike. U.S. officials revealed last week that U.S. forces had tried to rescue U.S. journalist James Foley in a failed operation in Raqqa in July.

"Had there been prior coordination that operation would not have failed," al-Moallem said.

The minister also denounced "in the strongest terms possible" Foley's killing last week by Islamic State militants, while asking: "Has the West ever condemned the massacres by the Islamic State and Nusra against our armed forces or citizens?"

Al-Moallem's news conference came a day after jihadis captured a major military air base in northeastern Syria, eliminating the last government-held outpost in a province otherwise dominated by the Islamic State group. After several failed attempts, Islamic State fighters stormed the Tabqa air base Sunday, killing dozens of troops inside.

Al-Moallem conceded defeat in Tabqa, saying that soldiers were withdrawn to nearby areas, along with their weaponry and warplanes inside the base.

The Islamic State group has established a self-declared caliphate in areas straddling Iraq and Syria's shared borders. The United States began airstrikes against the group in northern Iraq earlier this month, and is now considering similar strikes against the militants in Syria.

Al-Moallem said his government is ready to cooperate with any side, including the U.S., or join any regional or international alliance against the Islamic State group. But he said any military action inside Syria should be coordinated with the government, "which represents Syrian sovereignty."

"Any strike which is not coordinated with the government will be considered as aggression," he said.

Al-Moallem added that airstrikes alone will not be enough to eliminate extremist groups such as the Islamic State group and the Nusra Front. He called for "drying up" their resources including cutting off funding and arming by regional state actors and private donations as well controlling the borders and exchange of intelligence information.

He also welcomed the release Sunday of U.S. freelance reporter Peter Theo Curtus, who had been held hostage for nearly two years by the Nusra Front. He slammed the oil-rich nation of Qatar, which said Sunday that it has "exerted relentless efforts" to win his freedom.

"Don't these efforts constitute proof that they (Qataris) are linked to the Nusra terrorist organization" he asked.

Qatar is a leading supporter of the Syrian rebels fighting to oust Assad and has been involved in mediating past hostage releases. The country's foreign minister said Saturday that Qatar "does not support extremist groups," including the Islamic State group, in any way

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