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Syria denies U.S. security charges

From CNN Correspondent David Ensor

Bolton reiterated U.S. concerns over Syria's weapons development program.
Bolton reiterated U.S. concerns over Syria's weapons development program.

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The Bush administration sent one of its most ardent conservatives to list Syria's alleged transgressions.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Syria has denied charges from the U.S. it poses an international security threat and is not cooperating in the war on terror.

The accusations have come from several senior officials in Washington, including Undersecretary of State John Bolton who outlined the adminstrations case against Damascus to a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday.

Bolton reiterated U.S. accusations that Syria is developing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

He accused Damascus of taking "a series of hostile actions," including allowing military equipment to flow into Iraq, and "permitting volunteers to pass into Iraq to attack and kill service members during the war", a practice which he says is continuing.

Syria's foreign minister called the charges "unjust," and said "the demands of the U.S. are too many."

Damascus would try to satisfy Washington's concerns, Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shaara said, and was always ready to meet "reasonable demands that are within the framework of international legitimacy."

Some of the allegations were so far fetched they were laughable, foreign ministry spokeswoman Buthania Shaaban told CNN.

"Syria was acknowledged by the U.S. to be one of the best countries who cooperated against terrorism in the aftermath of September 11," she said.

"Syria is known for its historical stand against terrorism. I think what's worrying is the misinformation that seems to be getting to the United States," she added.

Bolton said Syria's military has chemical weapons and a program to make more, as well as biological weapons -- and there was evidence it might seek nuclear weapons.

"We are aware of the Syrian efforts to acquire dual-use technologies that could be applied to a nuclear weapons program," Bolton said.

Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, discusses developments in Iraq with the EU's Chris Patten.
Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, discusses developments in Iraq with the EU's Chris Patten.

Secretary of State Colin Powell -- and U.S. President George W. Bush -- were putting heavy pressure on Syria's young President Bashir Assad to change his ways, he said.

Committee members who favor putting more sanctions on Syria were not satisfied.

"Syria's record on terrorism in my estimation is worse than even Iraq's," Republican Eliot Engel said at the subcommittee hearing.

"Are we talking regime change in Syria?" congressman Gary Ackerman asked.

"Our preference is to solve these problems by peaceful and diplomatic means, but the President has also been very clear that we're not taking any options off the table," Bolton said.

"Secretary Powell is conducting very intensive efforts on this front. It's a delicate moment," he added.

Bolton said U.S. intelligence had been unable to confirm reports Iraq might have transferred some of its weapons of mass destruction to Syria. Syrian officials flatly deny it.

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