CAIRO Ñ Syria plans to oppose U.S. or international inspection
efforts of the Arab state's weapons of mass destruction arsenal.
Instead, Syria has accused Israel of being the leading WMD producer
in the Middle
East. Israel has signed the CWC, but has not ratified it.
Syria plans to pursue a draft resolution to the United Nations
Security Council that would convert the Middle East into a WMD free zone.
Nonproliferation experts have warned that the dismantling of Syria's WMD
arsenal would be extremely difficult without addressing Israel's purported
chemical and nuclear weapons.
Joseph Cirincione, director of the nonproliferation project of the
Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told a seminar
on Thursday that the search for WMD in Iraq and the surrounding region must
be a U.S. priority. He said the U.S. goal to remove WMD from Syria and other
Arab countries can only succeed if Israel is included in the effort.
"No, Syria will not allow any inspection operations, but rather will
cooperate with world states to rid the Middle East of all weapons of mass
destruction," Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk A-Shaara said. "It will only
contribute, with its Arab brothers and the countries of the whole world to
transforming the Middle East into a region devoid of all weapons of mass
destruction, chemical, biological or nuclear."
A-Shaara made the statement on Thursday after talks with Egyptian
President Hosni Mubarak. The foreign minister said Syria is prepared to lead
an effort for a WMD-free Middle East.
For a decade, Syria has refused to join an international effort to stop
the production of chemical weapons. Syria has neither signed nor ratified
the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention. Damascus has signed the Nuclear
The United States has accused Syria of harboring Iraqi WMD scientists.
These scientists were said to have led Iraq's biological and nuclear
Last week, the CIA reported that Syria sought chemical weapons
components and expertise and has maintained a stockpile of the nerve agent
The report said Syria also has sought to develop more toxic and persistent
"Syria remained dependent on foreign sources for key elements of its CW
program, including precursor chemicals and key production equipment," the
CIA report on proliferation said. "It is highly probable that Syria also is
continuing to develop an offensive BW capability."
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is expected to discuss Syria's WMD
free zone when he arrives in Damascus over the next few weeks.