Tuesday, April 20, 2010

U.S. summons Syrian diplomat over arms transfer to Hezbollah

Last update - 13:35 20/04/2010       
U.S. summons Syrian diplomat over arms transfer to Hezbollah
By Natasha Mozgovaya and The Associated Press
The United States State Department released a statement on Monday saying that Syria's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism was directly related to its support for groups like Hezbollah.
The statement was released as the State Department summoned Syria's most senior diplomat present in Washington, Deputy Chief of Mission to the U.S., Zouheir Jabbour, to discuss the recent reports that Syria was transferring scud missiles to the Lebanon based Iranian- and Syrian-backed Islamist group Hezbollah.
Earlier this month, the Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai Al-Aam reported that Syria had shipped ballistic Scud missiles to Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon.
Israeli officials say the introduction of Scuds could alter the strategic balance with Hezbollah, who battled Israel in a month-long war in 2006. Hezbollah pelted Israel with nearly 4,000 unguided Katyusha rockets during the war, causing widespread damage and dozens of casualties in Israel's north. Scud missiles have several times the range and explosive firepower of Katyusha rockets and would pose a much more serious threat.
U.S. State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid released a statement on Monday condemning "in the strongest terms" any transfer of arms to Hezbollah and calling for an immediate cessation of any arms transfer of this kind.
"The transfer of these arms can only have a destabilizing effect on the region, and would pose an immediate threat to both the security of Israel and the sovereignty of Lebanon," Duguid said.
"The risk of miscalculation that could result from this type of escalation should make Syria reverse the ill-conceived policy it has pursued in providing arms to Hizballah," Duguid said, stressing that the move was an impediment to achieving a comprehensive peace in the Middle East.
Lebanon's Western-backed prime minister on Monday compared accusations that Hezbollah has obtained Scud missiles to charges that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction ahead of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
The media suddenly started reporting that there are Scud missiles in Lebanon.
"Do you know what a Scud missile means? I believe it is as big as this room," Hariri said.
"Threats that Lebanon now has huge missiles are similar to what they used to say about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," he added. "These are weapons that they did not find and they are still searching for.
"They are trying to repeat the same scenario with Lebanon," the Lebanese prime minister said.
Saad Hariri made his comments late Monday during a meeting with members of the Lebanese community in Italy, where he is on an official visit. The comments were carried by Lebanese media Tuesday.
Doubts were raised by U.S. officials on Friday over whether the Scuds were delivered in full and whether they were moved to Lebanon. Hezbollah leaders refuse to confirm or deny the reports.

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