US Undersecretary of State John Bolton told Congress on Tuesday that Washington must keep open the option of using “every tool” to dissuade Damascus.

Syria has repeatedly denied the accusations. 

Bolton claimed Damascus was “continuing to develop an offensive biological weapons capability”.

The Undersecretary’s comments went further than the CIA’s claim that it was “highly probable” Damascus was developing an offensive biological weapons capability.

Blame game

Syria warned the United States not to blame its problems in Iraq on Damascus.

Syria’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Dr Buthaina Shaban said Washington was focusing its attention on Damascus when it should be dealing with its problems in Baghdad.

“The United States should consider its policies and problems in Iraq, without blaming Iraq’s neighbouring countries,” she said in an interview with Aljazeera.

Syria's FM Faruq al-Shara reiterates
readiness to cooperate with US

“A huge number of people in the United States are discussing the false reports on WMD in Iraq,” she said. “They will also reject the false allegations against Syria,” she added.

Meanwhile, Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shara said Damascus would meet any “reasonable” request from the US.

His comments came after US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Washington needed more "forceful" cooperation from Damascus if Syria wanted good relations with the US.

Draft bill debate

The latest war of words between Damascus and Washington coincides with a Congress debate scheduled this week to discuss the Syria Accountability Act.

This draft bill calls for sanctions to be imposed on Damascus if, among other things, it does not end its alleged development of WMD.

The bill is said to have support in both the US Senate and House of Representatives. The Bush administration has not formally taken a position on the draft.