Syria rejects WMD charge

Syria has brushed aside US accusations that it has Iraqi weapons of mass destruction as a cover story for what it calls US failure in Iraq.

    Al-Hasan (R) said allegation was meant to mislead

    "This (allegation) is meant to mislead (the public opinion). So long as there were no weapons of mass destruction (found) in Iraq itself how can they be in Syria?" information minister Ahmad al-Hasan told reporters.
    US Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Pat Roberts said on Wednesday there was some concern Iraqi weapons of mass destruction had gone to Syria.

    Syria, which vehemently opposed the US-led war in neighbouring Iraq, has repeatedly denied US charges it has its own weapons of mass destruction programmes.
    "They are seeking to cover their failure," al-Hasan said after meeting a delegation of Iraqi journalists and artists in Damascus.
    Bush, seeking re-election in November, with Iraq high on the campaign agenda, ordered US-led forces to oust former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein after accusing him of possessing chemical and biological arms and trying to build a nuclear weapon.

    However, the leader of the US team in charge of the search for banned weapons in Iraq, David Kay, resigned on Friday and said he had concluded there were no Iraqi stockpiles to be found.
    Hasan urged a swift end to the occupation of Iraq and a role for the United Nations to allow Iraqis to elect a national government.

    He urged them to safeguard their country's unity and said all Arab nations opposed the division of the occupied Arab state.

    Turkish initiative welcomed

    Syria also on Sunday welcomed Turkey's initiative to mediate for peace with Israel, but said any talks should be build on previous negotiations, a condition the Zionist state has rejected.

    Erdogan said Ankara would launch
    plan to mediate between the foes

    Al-Hasan told reporters he wished Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan success in his plans to play a role in the peace process.

    He said Syria hoped Erdogan would convince "Israel to give up its stubbornness and lack of commitment to (UN) Security Council resolutions".

    On Saturday, Erdogan said Ankara would launch an initiative to mediate between the two foes, saying Syrian President Bashar al-Asad and the Israeli government had responded positively to Turkey's offer.
    Israel, technically at war with Syria, has said any new talks should start from scratch.

    But al-Hasan said: "We have and we still do reiterate that the negotiations should be resumed from the point they stopped at".

    Israel refuses conditions

    Israel has said it will not accept any conditions for the revival of US-sponsored talks that collapsed in 2000 over the future of the strategic Golan Heights, captured by Israel in 1967.

    About 17,000 Jewish settlers have
    moved onto the Golan Heights

    The resumption of talks from the point reached in 2000 would effectively force Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to agree, even before sitting down at the negotiating table, to pull out from almost all of the Golan Heights.

    About 17,000 Jewish settlers live in the area among 20,000 Druze who consider themselves Syrians.

    Israel annexed the Golan in 1981, in a unilateral move condemned internationally. Syria demands the area's return as the price for peace.

    As well as strategic high ground, the fertile Golan Heights ensure Israeli control of important water resources in the arid region, land for vineyards, orchards and cattle-grazing.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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