Assad concedes that 'partly occupied' Syria has WMD

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The Independent Online

Every move by the Syrian President, Bashar Assad, was under close scrutiny as he arrived in Turkey for talks yesterday, after he appeared to concede that Syria possesses weapons of mass destruction.

Syria will renounce its WMD programme if Israel, which has a sizeable nuclear arsenal, does the same, Dr Assad said. "We are a country which is [partly] occupied," he told The Daily Telegraph,referring to the Golan Heights, which Israel has occupied since 1967. "From time to time we are exposed to Israeli aggression. It is natural for us to look for means to defend ourselves." Syria is not believed to have nuclear capability, but Western intelligence agencies say Damascus has chemical weapons.

Last year, Damascus presented a motion at the UN Security Council calling for all WMD to be removed from the Middle East, including Israel's weapons, only to have it rejected by the US and Britain.

His visit to neighbouring Turkey is the first ever by a Syrian head of state, and a sign of the warmest relations between the two countries in years.