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Russia and Syria sign major weapons deal - U.S., Israel upset at Moscow´s new alliance (WND-WORLD NET DAILY) By Aaron Klein 01/28/05 1:50 a.m. Eastern)Source: http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=42595 WND} WORLD NET DAILY WND} WORLD NET DAILY Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Russia and Syria this week signed a major weapons agreement in addition to the energy and trade deal the two countries reportedly reached Wednesday, prompting American and Israeli officials to privately voice concern over Russia´s assistance to countries accused of aiding the insurgency in Iraq.

Russian president Vladimir Putin and Syrian president Bashar Assad signed a military cooperation agreement that enables Russia to upgrade Syria´s military and sell Damascus advanced arms.

Among the first weapons transferred is the sale of an advanced anti- aircraft missile system mounted on armored personnel carriers, according to sources.

The system is highly effective against low-flying aircraft and cruise missiles, and the mobility offered by the carriers renders the new missiles difficult to detect prior to launch. A deal in the works may also provide Syria with advanced surface missiles capable of engaging multiple targets at once.

Assad was in Russia this week to discuss ways of strengthening ties with the former Soviet Union and to request debt-forgiveness.

Putin pledged joint business ventures, including projects focusing on the development of oil and gas resources in Syria, and agreed to write-off 73 percent of Syria´s $13.4 billion debt to Russia.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, who participated in talks with Assad, said Moscow is ready to cooperate with Syria "in every direction," including facing "new challenges and threats" in the Middle East region.

But U.S. and Israeli officials have been urging Russia to limit the scope of its new military pact with Syria and have expressed concern the weapons could be passed to Hezbollah or to insurgents for use against U.S. forces in Iraq.

Insurgents have been spotted crossing the Syria-Iraq border, and the U.S. says it has substantial intelligence Syria has been providing fighters with funds, weapons and intelligence information. Several detained insurgents have confessed to receiving Syrian support.

Israeli officials have an added gripe. Joseph Farah´s G2 Bulletin reported last week Israel is upset its own technology may be incorporated in the systems for sale to Syria.

A source in Jerusalem said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon became alarmed as intelligence reports accumulated showing Russia not only is interested in selling hardware to the Syrians, but has been using as bait supposed secretive, growing technological and scientific ties with Israel.

One report reveals the Russians had offered similar proposals to the Iranians and in so doing were blatantly breaching one-by-one weapons agreements and understandings achieved with Israel over the past five years.

The new weapons deal with Syria underscores fears Russia has been aligning itself with regimes working to destabilize American interests in the Middle East, particularly Iran, which intelligence indicates is the primary state sponsor of the Iraq insurgency.

Russia has been the main provider to Iran of nuclear technology and facilities. Moscow claims its nuclear cooperation with Tehran is confined exclusively to civilian nuclear plant construction, such as a previous deal for the construction and supply of Iran´s Beshehr reactor.

But sources say Russia has embarked on a government-sponsored nuclear and missile technology transfer program that could provide Iran with the ability to produce nuclear bombs in one to three years. They say Russia still is contemplating providing Tehran with rods that are able to enrich uranium, a deal that was first reported last September.

Earlier this month, Russia reportedly installed a mobile radar system to protect the Bushehr nuclear reactor, and similar systems allegedly are in the works for other Iranian nuclear facilities, with a site in central Iran being fitted for the system. The portable units are designed to detect low, medium and high altitude incoming missiles, and would complicate any attack on Iran´s nuclear facilities.

Sources told WND operators of the Beshehr plant arrived earlier this month at a nuclear training center in Novovoronezh, Russia, where they have been receiving instruction on facility operation.

Iran has been directly connected to violence in Iraq. An agent of Iran´s elite Jerusalem Force was arrested this week in Iraq´s Diyala province carrying money and planning attacks against U.S.

The Iranian agent reportedly revealed during interrogation the location of a group of other Iranian agents working with them and admitted to having smuggled the group and their weapons through the Iran-Iraq border, avoiding security controls.

The arrest followed the confession last week of Col. Muayed Al- Nasseri, an insurgent leader and former head of Saddam Hussein´s "Army of Muhammad," who told U.S. interrogators Iran was the principle financier of the insurgency in Iraq.

The U.S. has been attempting to formulate an appropriate policy to temper Russia´s alliances with Iran and Syria. According to officials familiar with the talks, the U.S. has offered Russia different possible compensations in return for severing nuclear dealings with Iran including financial packages, agreeing to the Russian import of nuclear waste from Taiwan, South Korea or Japan, and even having NASA contract certain services from the Russians. But the offers were not effective.

One source said Bush is being pressured into warning Russia in a summit next month with Putin that relations with the U.S. are dependent on its cutting ties with Iran and Syria.

"Russia is trying to gain a foothold in the Middle East by lining itself up with Syria and Iraq," said the source. "This is part of a new global order being oriented after September 11 and with America staking out its position in the war on terror. U.S. policy on Russia needs to be updated to reflect this." (© 2005 WorldNetDaily.com, Inc. 01/28/05)

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