Israeli Chief of Staff: Syria may have hidden Iraqi WMD

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Thursday, April 29, 2004

TEL AVIV Israel's military leader has for the first time publicly asserted that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction might have been sent to neighboring Syria.

Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon explained the failure of the U.S.-led coalition to find WMD in Iraq by saying Saddam Hussein's biological and chemical weapons might have been transferred to Syria.

"Perhaps they were transferred to a neighboring country, such as Syria," Ya'alon told the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot on Monday. "We very clearly saw that something crossed into Syria."

Ya'alon said another possibility was that Iraq buried its WMD arsenal, Middle East Newsline reported. He said he would have conducted the search for Iraqi WMD differently, but did not elaborate.

It was the first time a high-level Israeli military official asserted that Iraqi WMD could have been transferred to Syria. Last year, a similar assertion was issued by the head of the U.S. National System for Geospatial-Intelligence, Lt. Gen. James Clapper.



The Israeli chief of staff said the Saddam regime modified Iraqi aircraft for CW attacks against Israeli targets in 2002. He said the aircraft included Soviet-origin fighters as well as unmanned air vehicles.

"We identified them: UAVs, Tupolev-16s and Sukhoi," Ya'alon said. "They were specially fitted for these kinds of missions dispersing chemical weapons. We are talking about dozens or no more than hundreds of kilograms of material."

Ya'alon said the U.S. military located the Iraqi modified aircraft by the second day of the war in March 2003. The chief of staff said Israel had relayed information critical to that mission.


Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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