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Libya defends Syria against WMD accusation

Libya, apparently embarrassed by a U.S. statement that Tripoli had pledged not to trade arms with Syria, said it had not named Syria as a country spreading weapons of mass destruction and hence subject to its ban.
SYRIAN PRESIDENT BASHAR AL ASSAD ARRIVES FOR A MEETING WITH TURKISH BUSINESSMEN IN ISTANBUL
Syrian President Bashar Al AssadFatih Saribas / Reuters file
/ Source: Reuters

Libya, apparently embarrassed by a U.S. statement that Tripoli had pledged not to trade arms with Syria, said it had not named Syria as a country spreading weapons of mass destruction and hence subject to its ban.

The United States said on Thursday it welcomed Libya's commitment not to trade arms with countries it considers to be of concern in terms of proliferating weapons of mass destruction -- a group Washington said included Syria, Iran and North Korea.

But in a statement carried by Libyan news agency Jana late on Friday, the Foreign Ministry noted it had not specified the countries involved, though Israel would certainly be among them.

"Libya can not judge that Syria has weapons of mass destruction because it a peaceful state, whose land is occupied and which is threatened with being wiped out by Israel," the Libyan Foreign Ministry said in the statement.

"If the Libyan statement were to be interpreted why does that interpretation not include Israel which possesses weapons of mass destruction and constitutes a threat to the region and the world and is shielded by the United States?" it said.

Some Arabs have criticized Libya for renouncing weapons of mass destruction without a commitment from Washington to push for a similar move by Israel, which neither confirms nor denies the widespread belief it has nuclear weapons.

President Bush this week banned all U.S. exports to Syria other than food or medicine, accusing Damascus of supporting terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction.

Turnaround in U.S.-Libya ties
U.S.-Libyan ties have improved since Tripoli's December 19 announcement that it would cease pursing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

Washington eased a U.S. trade embargo on Libya last month to allow U.S. companies to resume most trade and buy Libyan oil. It also withdrew the U.S. objection to Libya entering the World Trade Organization.

The dramatic improvement in U.S.-Libyan relations began last August, when Tripoli took responsibility for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed all 259 people aboard and 11 people on the ground.

In another sign of warming ties with a nation it once treated as a pariah, Washington will upgrade diplomatic ties by opening a liaison office in Tripoli and U.S. diplomats returned to Tripoli earlier this year.