Baghdad supports the aspirations of the Syrian people and will not back the Damascus regime "at any cost," a Saudi newspaper on Monday quoted a high-ranking Iraqi official as saying.
"We do not support the Syrian regime at any cost," Iraqi national security advisor Faleh Fayad told Al-Riyadh daily. "We support reform and Syrians must have the political freedom to choose who rules them."
"We stand completely with the aspirations of the Syrian people," he said. "We cannot hope for freedom and democracy (for ourselves) while denying" Syrians this right.
"But frankly, we have not seen a scenario for resolving" the crisis in Syria, Fayad said.
Arab League member states voted in November to suspend Syria's participation in the pan-Arab bloc because of the violence, but Iraq has shied away from imposing punitive measures.
"Everybody is aware of the past problems between Iraq and Syria... from which Syria was affected by armed and terrorist groups that infiltrated via the Syrian border," Fayad told the newspaper, during a visit to the Sunni-dominated kingdom.
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Syria shares a roughly 600-kilometre (372-mile) border with Iraq, more than half of it with the Sunni-majority Anbar province that was once an insurgent stronghold.
Assad is a member of the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, while the majority of Syrians, and of his opponents, are Sunni Muslims.
Iraq, by contrast, is governed by majority Shiite Muslims, but has a substantial Sunni Arab minority.
"What's we see today is an escalation that will lead to civil war that is starting to emerge... We have completely supported the Arab Initiative on Syria," which envisages Assad stepping down, Fayad said.
But he echoed warnings earlier this month by Iraq's deputy interior minister Adnan al-Assadi that weapons were being smuggled across the border to opponents of Assad's regime.
The Syrian opposition, meanwhile, accuses Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr of sending fighters to back Assad's troops.
More than 7,600 people have been killed in violence across Syria since anti-regime protests erupted in March 2011, according to human rights groups.