Rumsfeld warns Syria to halt 'hostile' shipments of military aid
Saturday 29 March 2003
Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, issued a stern warning to Syria last night to stop allowing the shipment of night-vision goggles and other military supplies to Iraq – or face the consequences.
"We consider such trafficking as a hostile act and will hold the Syrian government responsible," Mr Rumsfeld told a Pentagon briefing.
There was no immediate reaction from Damascus to the accusation, apparently based on US intelligence findings.
Mr Rumsfeld said that any movement of hi-tech equipment such as night goggles would "vastly complicate" the efforts of the US/British coalition to bring the war to a speedy end. "These deliveries pose a direct threat to the lives of coalition forces."
Asked if Washington was threatening military action against Syria, the Defence Secretary replied ominously: "I'm saying exactly what I'm saying." Washington's complaint against Syria is the second of its kind in recent days, after its protests to Moscow about Russian companies allegedly supplying Saddam Hussein with anti-satellite guidance equipment, to interfere with precision American weaponry. Mr Rumsfeld did not say which country manufactured the night goggles sent across the Syrian border into Iraq.
A spokeswoman for Syria's Foreign Ministry rejected Mr Rumsfeld's statement as "unfounded and irresponsible".
President Bashar Assad has described the American/British invasion as "a clear occupation and a flagrant aggression against a United Nations member state".
As a current member of the Security Council, this month Syria adamantly opposed a UN resolution, later withdrawn, to sanction the use of force to oust President Saddam.
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