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Sunday, September 16, 2007 

Clutching at straws

"There has also been deep scepticism about the claims from other officials and former officials familiar with both Syria and North Korea. They have pointed out that an almost bankrupt Syria has neither the economic nor the industrial base to support the kind of nuclear programme described, adding that Syria has long rejected going down the nuclear route.

Others have pointed out that North Korea and Syria in any case have also had a long history of close links - making meaningless the claim that the North Koreans are in Syria."

16 September 2007

DAMASCUS - An official Syrian daily warned on Sunday that US “lies” over nuclear cooperation with North Korea could serve as a pretext for an attack on Syria following an Israeli violation of its airspace.

“Members of the choir have started up a new song that is full of hostility, this time about Syrian-Korean nuclear cooperation,” Ath-Thawra said. “This is a big lie... Syria is used to having to put up with such lies.”

The Washington Post reported last Thursday that North Korea may be helping Syria build some kind of nuclear facility, citing unnamed intelligence sources.

Israel’s secret service had relayed the information to the US government, which the Post described as “dramatic.”

“This is nothing new, accusing Syria of things that it has nothing to do with... But what is new is the scope of the new lie and the way it is being peddled,” said Ath-Thawra.

Syria has said its air defences fired on Israeli warplanes, which dropped munitions deep inside its territory in the early hours of September 6, triggering intense media speculation about the action.

Israel has not confirmed the incident and kept up a policy of official silence, with the only details on the mysterious attack coming from foreign media reports citing anonymous officials.

“The United States and Israel need a file... after the recent violation of Syrian airspace by Israeli planes,” Ath-Thawra said. ”The latest accusation could be a prelude to more attacks on Syria.”

Ath-Thawra said “the occupation of Iraq was based on this kind of accusation,” referring to former dictator Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction which were never found after the US-led invasion of 2003.


Israel says it's prepared for talks with Syria
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert won't comment on recent reported attack
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Updated: 2 hours, 10 minutes ago
JERUSALEM - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel was prepared for peace negotiations with Syria under the right conditions but refused to answer questions Monday about a widely reported Israeli air attack in northern Syria.

Olmert made his comments to a group of Russian-language reporters, Israeli media reported.

One of the reporters told Army Radio that Olmert was trying to send a calming message to Syria. However, she said, he refused to answer questions about the reported Israeli air attack.

Story continues below ↓


Israel has not commented on the incident since Syria cryptically announced it earlier this month, saying its air space had been entered and that Israel had “dropped munitions.” Syria has offered no evidence of any Israeli attack.

“I have a lot of respect for the Syrian leader and for Syrian policy. They have internal problems, but we have no reason to rule out dialogue with Syria,” Olmert was quoted as saying by the Haaretz daily.

Olmert has made the same offer of peace talks many times in the past, but this was the first time he has mentioned Syria since the reported airstrike. In 2000, Israel-Syria talks neared agreement but broke down over final border and peace arrangements.

“As I’ve said in the past, we want to make peace with everyone,” Olmert said in the Monday meeting, according to the paper. “If the conditions ripen, we are ready to make peace with Syria, with no preconditions and no ultimatums.”

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