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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 11, December 1996

Fierce Israel-Syria exchange on chemical weapons

On 17 November, Israel's Defence Minister, Yitzhak Mordechai, reportedly alleged that Syria had been developing an array of chemical weapons, featuring the VX nerve gas and other agents. According to Mordechai, speaking on Israeli Radio:

"...it is not possible to ignore the [chemical] weapons arsenal [of Syria] and their existing capabilities. We cannot ignore the reality. ... If someone tries to threaten us, to use their weapons against us...they must take into account that Israel has an exceptional military ability that will be used in defense and to harm the other side."

On 28 November, Syria's Ambassador to Egypt, Issa Darwish, issued the following statement:

"All Arab countries have adhered to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty while Israel has refused to do so... By possessing nuclear weapons, the Jewish State threatens the peace and security of the Middle East, the Mediterranean region and Europe. Arabs do not possess weapons of mass destruction."

However, in a separate statement quoted on 27 November in the Egyptian weekly newspaper Al-Ahram, Darwish is reported to have stated:

"Damascus will respond by using chemical weapons and Syria is now preparing to face up to any Israeli threat... The response will be severe if Israel goes further in its threats to strike Syria with nuclear weapons. ... Syria is not planning a war or an attack against any party, but it will confront Israeli threats and has a military option."

Reports: Defense Miniscer - Russia helhing Syria devel p lethal nerve oas, AP Datastream International News Wire, 17 November; Arabs will not use arms of mass destruction - Syrian ambassador, Agence France-Presse International New , 28 November.

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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