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Iraq says Syria must show will to stop militants

BAGHDAD, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Iraq wants to see a serious effort from Syria to stop militants using it as a base before they can talk about restoring diplomatic ties, the government spokesman said on Friday.

Iraq and Syria recalled their ambassadors last month after Baghdad accused Damascus of sheltering militants it blames for a string of bombings on Iraqi soil, including two huge truck bombs outside government ministries last month that killed 95 people.

The bombings triggered a diplomatic feud between the two neighbours, who had only recently begun to deepen ties strained since the early days of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Iraq has demanded Syria hand over two alleged masterminds of the bombings, a request Damascus has refused.

"It is premature to talk about the return of the ambassadors before Iraq sees seriousness from the Syrian side and the political will to implement the demands of Iraqis," government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has formally asked the U.N. Security Council to launch an inquiry into the bombs, but Dabbagh said that request could be withdrawn if Syria decides to be more cooperative.

"The choice of the international court is valid until we see a clear Syrian will to cooperate with Iraq. In that case, we'd stop the international court issue," he said, referring to the requested U.N. inquiry that some hope might lead to a special tribunal to prosecute Syrian officials for sheltering militants.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called Iraq's accusations "immoral" and demanded Baghdad provide proof to back them up, but Maliki has been defiant, saying plenty of evidence has already been sent to Syrian officials.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has attempted to mediate the dispute, apparently with little success so far.

"Iraq welcomes the Turkish mediation," Dabbagh said. "Iraq will give a bigger chance to ... Turkish mediation to stop aggressive activity against Iraqis being launched from Syria."

But he added that it would only bear fruit if "we see the results of the Turkish mediation on the Syrian side in the form of a commitment to what Iraq asks for".

Additional reporting by Khalid al-Ansary; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton

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