US President Barack Obama
Photo: AFP
Robert Ford, Obama's pick for ambassador
Photo: AFP

Officials: US needs envoy in Syria

Officials say transfer of Scuds to Hezbollah proves Washington needs closer ties with Damascus

The transfer of Scud missiles to Hezbollah from Syria will not prevent the reassignment of a US ambassador to Damascus, and even proves that such an authority figure is needed there, the Wall Street Journal quoted Washington officials as saying Wednesday.


Officials briefed on intelligence have confirmed that both Israel and the US believe Syria gave Hezbollah missiles produced according to North Korean or Russian technology.


Earlier in his term US President Barack Obama announced that he would reassign an envoy to Damascus, after his predecessor George Bush recalled the ambassador there in 2005, following the assassination of President Rafik al-Hariri.


Obama's critics say Syrian President Bashar Assad is strengthening ties with extremists in the region, including Iran. But members of the administration say the most recent Syrian provocation is proof that closer contact with Syria is needed, in order to attempt to divert it from this path.


"If anything, we need (an ambassador) in Damascus full time just to ensure that reality gets its day in court now and then," the Wall Street Journal quoted a senior administration official as saying.


The journal reported that Congressional officials were working to put a hold on the nomination of career diplomat Robert Ford to the position, but that a Senate hearing on the matter would take place soon.


A report on the transfer of the Scud missiles said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, who went as an emissary to Damascus on April 1, had raised concerns about the arming of Hezbollah by the Syrian regime.


"These weapons transfers must stop in order to promote regional stability and security," Kerry's spokesman, Frederick Jones, said.


The journal added that Hezbollah had denied the weapons transfer and claimed reports on the matter were an Israeli ploy to divert attention from construction in settlements and east Jerusalem.


A Syrian Embassy spokesman in Washington said Israel was trying to cover up its own armament. "It is ridiculous that Israel dictates the agenda of arms control in the region while stifling any discussion of its nuclear arsenal, along with the influx of top-caliber US weaponry," said Ahmed Salkini.


פרסום ראשון: 04.14.10, 10:08
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