Israel must abandon nukes first: Syrian prez

Agence France Presse

Beirut, January 19

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared in an interview published today that Israel must abandon its nuclear arsenal before Arab states can be asked to give up any alleged weapons programmes.

"What the United States is requesting is not logically acceptable," Assad told the pan-Arab al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper.

"It is not possible to ask Arab and Muslim states, where there is no proof that they possess such weapons, to allow inspections of their installations but ignore the Israeli arsenal of weapons of mass destruction," he said in response to a question about US accusations that Syria possesses such arms.

"If they were really serious, let the entire region be free" of weapons of mass destruction, he said.

The US has urged Syria to follow the example of Libya which last month pledged to renounce

its quest for chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, threatening Damascus with political and economic sanctions.

But Assad said: "We have been calling from the start for the removal of all weapons of mass destruction from the region. We presented this in an initiative eight months ago. "Libya has made one step and what is now needed is to achieve the objective, which is to remove all weapons of mass destruction from all countries in the region."