Syria Lashes Out at U.S. Over Missile Accusation

Syrian soldiers pass a Damascus restaurant displaying a picture of, from left, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah Friday, April 30, 2010.
AP Photo/Ola Rifai
Syria on Saturday slammed the United States for alleging it was transferring missiles to Lebanese Hezbollah, calling the charge a "fabricated campaign" similar to claims made against the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein about weapons of mass destruction prior to the U.S. invasion.

Damascus also warned Washington to stop supporting Israel if it was really seeking to maintain peace in the Middle East.

In a blunt statement he gave to state-run Syrian Arab News Agency, foreign minister Walid Al-Muallem was reacting to remarks made Thursday by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in a speech in Washington in the presence of Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Repeating Tel Aviv's allegations of Syria supplying missiles to Hezbollah, Clinton claimed such transfer of weaponry, "especially longer-range missiles" to "terrorists" in southern Lebanon and Gaza, would pose a "serious threat" to Israel's security and could spark new conflict in the Middle East.

Muallem said the U.S. should not accept Israel's claims, adding that it was American weapons going to Israel that are destabilizing the region.

"While the world has recognized the constructive role carried out by Syria under the leadership of President Bashar al-Assad to maintain security and stability of the region, the public opinion still remembers the American fabricated campaign before the war on Iraq," the Syrian Foreign Minister said.

"It seems that the current American administration is trying to repeat the same scenario," he added, in the first officials Syrian reaction to the U.S. claims.

"We warn the United States of adopting the Israeli false allegations and confirm that what actually destabilizes the region is the U.S. excessive supply of all sophisticated weapons to Israel and its going along with Israeli government's false allegations at our expense," al-Moallem concluded.

Israel has accused Syria of providing Hezbollah with Scud missiles, which would dramatically increase the group's ability to strike targets within Israel. U.S. officials have not confirmed Hezbollah's possession of Scuds, but say they are concerned about its growing arsenal of rockets and missiles.

However, both Damascus and the Lebanese resistance group denied the allegations, describing them as efforts to instigate tensions in the region.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has also dismissed the Israeli claims as an effort by Tel Aviv to justify a new war on his country.

The Scud allegations come as the United States increases dialogue with Syria after years of tense relations. U.S. lawmakers have seized upon the accusations to argue against any rapprochement between Washington and Damascus.

In February, President Barack Obama nominated career diplomat Robert Ford as the country's first ambassador to Syria in five years, but his appointment has yet to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

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