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Thursday, April 15, 2004

Syria smuggling
WMD to Sudan

Apparent effort to conceal them from Western inspection

Posted: April 15, 2004
1:00 a.m. Eastern

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© 2004

Syria's Defense Ministry has been smuggling components for missiles and weapons of mass destruction to Sudan in an apparent effort to conceal them from Western inspection.

Western intelligence sources said the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad has been flying shipments of Scud C and Scud D extended-range missiles and WMD components to warehouses in Khartoum since at least January 2004.

The sources said the Syrian shipments to Khartoum were placed on civilian airliners but authorized and directed by the Defense Ministry.

"There is widespread concern in the Syrian regime that Damascus will be the next to face heavy U.S. and international pressure to open its WMD facilities in the wake of the Libyan example," a senior intelligence source said. "The Syrians have decided that they want to take some of their assets out of the country."

The intelligence sources said the Sudanese regime of President Omar Bashir was not informed of the Syrian missile and WMD shipments.

They said the Syrian material was sent to Khartoum as part of the increased trade relations between the two countries and processed and stored by Sudanese companies.

A U.S. official who deals with Middle East issues said Syria was suspected of transporting missile and WMD components to Sudan. But the U.S. intelligence community has not confirmed the reports, he said.

The intelligence sources said 10 civilian aircraft sponsored by the Syrian Defense Ministry brought a range of missile and WMD-related material to Khartoum in January. A similar number of flights were reported in February and March and they included components of the Scud C, Scud D missiles and launchers as well as chemical weapons and precursors.

In some cases, the cargo was listed as medical equipment, the sources said.

Syria has operated numerous civilian projects in Sudan, including agriculture, food and transportation. Much of the cargo was destined for southern Sudan.

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