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Syrian Arms Purchases Menace Peace, Israel Complains to American Official

March 13, 1992
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Syria’s expanding arms purchases threaten peace and stability in the Middle East, Israel told the United States on Thursday.

The blunt warning was conveyed by Foreign Minister David Levy to John Bolton, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for international organizations, who is visiting Jerusalem.

Alluding to Syria’s reported progress in developing chemical weapons while receiving $2 billion a year in Western economic support, Levy charged that the country is “following the path of Iraq.”

He pointedly ordered his message to Bolton released to the news media.

It was delivered against the background of reports that a North Korean cargo ship which evaded U.S. Navy surveillance was discharging a cargo of Korean-made Scud-C missiles and related equipment destined for Syria at the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.

Syrian President Hafez Assad denied that Korean ships were bringing missiles to Syria. “Everything you have heard is untrue,” Assad declared after being sworn in Thursday in Damascus to his fourth seven-year term as president.

Israel’s concern over Syria’s rapid arms buildup is also expected to be stressed by Defense Minister Moshe Arens, who arrived in Washington for talks with Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and other administration officials.

Levy said Syria’s arms policy seemed dangerously incongruent with its participation in peace talks with Israel. He told Bolton that Syria’s warning that the absence of progress in the talks could lead to war was a form of “political terror” not conducive to a negotiating atmosphere.

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