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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Report: Blast at Syria base stopped installation of chem warheads

LONDON A blast that killed dozens of Iranian and Syrian military officers stopped a joint program to install chemical weapons warheads on Scud-class ballistic missiles.

The London-based Jane's Defence Weekly reported that 15 Syrian officers and dozens of Iranian engineers were killed in a blast at a missile and chemical weapons facility near Aleppo on July 23. The magazine reported that the blast shook the northeastern Syrian military base during the installation of a CW warhead on a Scud-class ballistic missile.

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[On Wednesday, Singapore reported that a local cargo company was fined $14,500 for trying to export missile components to Iran. A Singaporean official said the missile components arrived in Singapore from Switzerland and were meant for reexport to Iran.]

During installation, the warhead exploded and a fire raged through a building that held containers of VX and mustard gas, Jane's said in a Sept. 17 report. Many of the Iranians and Syrians in the building were killed.

The explosion took place in a Syrian military base that contained facilities constructed by Iran. In 2005, Iran and Syria were said to have signed an agreement for missile and weapons of mass destruction development.

"Iran has entered into strategic cooperation with Syria on conventional and nonconventional weapons development," Israeli Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter said on Wednesday. "They [Iranians] are very big in Syria."

Jane's reported that the blast aborted an Iranian-Syrian project to install CW warheads on the Scud B, C and D ballistic missiles. The Scud C and D have ranges of 550 and 700 kilometers, respectively.

On July 26, Syria, who has refused to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention, reported a blast at a northern military base outside Aleppo. But the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad attributed the blast to munitions that exploded from extreme heat. The blast was reported to have taken place at 3 a.m.

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