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    Entries in syrian front (2)


    Israel accuses North Korea of shipping WMDs to Syria

    JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Tuesday accused nuclear power North Korea of supplying Syria with weapons of mass destruction.

    Lieberman's office quoted him as telling Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama at a meeting in Tokyo that such activity threatened to destabilise east Asia as well as the Middle East.

    "The cooperation between Syria and North Korea is not focused on economic development and growth but rather on weapons of mass destruction" Lieberman said.

    In evidence he cited the December 2009 seizure at Bangkok airport of an illicit North Korean arms shipment which US intelligence said was bound for an unnamed Middle East country.

    Lieberman said Syria intended to pass the weapons on to theLebanese Hezbollah militia and to the Islamic Hamas movement, which rules Gaza and has its political headquarters in Damascus.

    "This cooperation endangers stability in both southeast Asia and also in the Middle East and is against all the accepted norms in the international arena," Lieberman was quoted as telling Hatoyama.

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    Israel is vigilant on Northern Border

    Some of the thousands of extra reservists called up by the Israeli military are to be held ready in case of conflict on Israel's northern border with Lebanon, the scene of a long and costly battle two years ago.

    As Israeli troops invaded Gaza on Saturday night, the defence minister, Ehud Barak, warned that the military was monitoring the northern border.

    "While we are fighting in Gaza, we keep an open eye on the sensitive situation in our northern border," he said. "We hope the situation there will remain calm; nevertheless we are ready and alert to face any unwarranted development in that area."

    Last week, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, said he had put his forces on alert. Israel believes Hezbollah has rearmed itself, yet there has been no sign that the group is ready for another conflict. Since the summer of 2006, when Hezbollah and Israel fought a bloody conflict that claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Lebanese and more than 100 Israelis, the border has been quiet, with a UN monitoring force patrolling in southern Lebanon.

    Hezbollah is not seen to be in a strong enough position within Lebanon to launch another major confrontation. Parliamentary elections are due in May and few believe the movement would risk upsetting its position ahead of the ballot.

    Hamas's key backer in the region, Iran, has stepped up its rhetoric in response to the ground invasion and is coordinating with Syria to rally support for Palestinians. Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran's parliament, said yesterday that Gaza would turn into a "graveyard" for Israelis.

    Iran's national security chief, Saeed Jalili, held talks in Beirut with Nasrallah, and on Saturday was in Damascus, meeting Hamas's exiled leader, Khaled Meshal.

    Iran supports Hamas's demand that the blockade of Gaza be lifted and border crossing points into Egypt be permanently opened. Diplomats say Tehran is encouraging Hamas to oppose the Egyptian idea that the borders can be opened only if there is a monitoring role for the Palestinian Authority (PA), which controls the West Bank and is recognised internationally as the legitimate Palestinian government.

    Iran and Syria support Hamas while all other Arab countries formally back the PA. But Egypt and Jordan, which have peace treaties with Israel, condemned the Gaza incursion yesterday.

    Since Israel's offensive began on 27 December, Iran has called for the wholesale support of the Muslim world and condemned the silence of western-backed Arab states. "The failure of some countries to move effectively regarding Israeli terrorism, as well as silence over this terrorism, will have negative effects on the status of these countries," Jalili warned, said the Syrian news agency Sana.

    Jalili underlined Iran's strategic link with Hezbollah and Syria by visiting the tomb of its military leader, Imad Mughniyeh, assassinated in Damascus last February in a killing blamed on Israel.

    Israeli officials claim Iran is the source of some of the longer-range rockets being fired from Gaza into Israel and smuggled across the Egyptian border during the six-month ceasefire that ended in mid-December. Iran routinely denies transferring weapons to Hamas. But the former president, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, said during Friday prayers: "The oppressed Palestinian people can stand up to Israel if they get political, [and] financial support, as well as weapons."