Tuesday 20 March 2018

WikiLeaks: Syria 'continued selling missiles to Hezbollah'

Jon Swaine

Syria continued selling missiles to Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group, after expressly promising the US it was not doing so, diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks disclose.

Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president, received a warning about the sales from Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, just a week after he assured a senior US official they were not taking place.

"In our meetings last week it was stated that Syria is not transferring any 'new' missiles to Lebanese Hezbollah," Mrs Clinton said in the cable, which was sent in February.

"We are aware, however, of current Syrian efforts to supply Hezbollah with ballistic missiles. I must stress that this activity is of deep concern to my government, and we strongly caution you against such a serious escalation." A US diplomat in Damascus said a Syrian official had reacted sharply to Mrs Clinton's note, "flatly denying any Syrian role in the supply of weapons to Hezbollah".

But a cable sent the following month shows that an increasingly concerned US raised the issue with Britain, France, and Turkey, all of whom promised to take it up with the Syrians.

Allegations that Syria had supplied Hezbollah with Scud missiles surfaced publicly in April. The Syrian deputy chief of mission in Washington, was summoned to the State Department amid US anger.

Leaked cables also suggest North Korea is fuelling the Middle Eastern arms build-up by providing missile systems to Syria and Iran, which in turn back Hezbollah and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group.


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