DAMASCUS (AFP) Jan 25, 2004
Damascus strongly denied Sunday charges by the former head of the US-led coalition’s search for alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that parts had been moved to Syria in the run-up to the war.
The accusations by David Kay, the recently replaced head of the Iraq Survey Group, in Britain’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper were “baseless deception and lies,” said Information Minister Ahmad al-Hassan.
“The aim is to cover up their failure to find any weapons of mass destuction, the pretext they advanced for going to war,” he said.
Taking up charges already levelled by Washington, Kay said in what was billed as an exclusive interview with the British weekly that part of Saddam Hussein’s secret weapons programme had been transferred from Iraq to neighbouring Syria, and its status had yet to be resolved.
“We are not talking about a large stockpile of weapons,” Kay was quoted as saying.
“But we know from some of the interrogations of former Iraqi officials that a lot of material went to Syria before the war, including some components of Saddam’s WMD programmes.
“Precisely what went to Syria, and what has happened to it, is a major issue that needs to be resolved.”
Kay stepped down Friday as leader of the Iraq Survey Group, which 10 months after the US and British invasion of Iraq has yet to find any of Saddam’s feared weapons of mass destruction.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Saturday it was “open question” as to whether Iraq still had such weapons, but he argued that pre-war intelligence was correct about Saddam’s intention to develop them.