DAMASCUS (AFP) — Syria said on Monday that US accusations it had been building a nuclear reactor until its destruction in an Israeli air raid last September were as bogus as American claims that Saddam Hussein's regime had weapons of mass destruction in 2003.
The ruling Baath party's mouthpiece daily compared the photographs of the bombed site shown to US congressmen last week to the images Washington presented to the UN Security Council as alleged evidence of Iraq's non-conventional arsenal in the run-up to the US-led invasion.
"When you look at these pictures... a single image comes to mind -- that of US Secretary of State Colin Powell accusing Iraq of hiding weapons of mass destruction and presenting as proof a dossier of photographs," Al-Baath said.
"Of course Mr Powell later acknowledged that he had been fooled by the US intelligence services and by conservatives within the administration.
"The new US campaign of lies should surprise nobody -- it's a continuation of the same policy of US pressure against Syria that's been going on" for the past five years, the paper added.
"Syria again rejects the US allegations and reaffirms that it has nothing to hide concerning its legitimate national defences. Syria wants to see peace in the region, unlike the current US administration which has been behind all its wars and crises."
US national security officials briefed US congressmen on Thursday, presenting intelligence they said showed Syria had been building a secret nuclear reactor for military ends.
They said the plant was being built with the help of North Korea, until its destruction by Israel in an air raid on September 6.
The International Atomic Energy Agency launched an investigation into the US accusations on Friday but also chided both Israel and the United States for their handling of the affair.
Syria roundly rejected the US allegations but promised full cooperation with the UN watchdog.
In an interview published by the Qatari daily Al-Watan on Sunday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ridiculed the US accusations.
"Does it make sense that we would build a nuclear facility in the desert and not protect it with anti-aircraft defences?" he asked. "A nuclear site exposed to (spy) satellites, in the heart of Syria and in an open space?
"We don't want a nuclear bomb... Where would we use it?... War in the region will effectively remain conventional," Assad said.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »