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Syria Moves for UN Action on Mideast Weapons - 2003-04-16

At the United Nations Wednesday Syria circulated a draft resolution calling on the Security Council to help the Middle East become a region that is free of weapons of mass destruction. From New York, correspondent Barbara Schoetzau reports the resolution is aimed at Israel.

The draft resolution asks the Security Council to take a lead role in initiating the establishment of a "zone free of weapons of mass destruction, in particular nuclear weapons" in the Middle East. Syrian Ambassador Mikhail Wehbe introduced the resolution at a closed-door Security Council meeting, with the support of the Arab Group of countries at the United Nation.

"We feel it is a very important resolution at this stage to show the importance of and the necessity of keeping the area free of any weapons of mass destruction," said Ambassador Wehbe, including, at "the forefront, nuclear weapons, which are the most destructive, chemical and biological."

The draft also calls on governments in the region to ratify a series of arms control accords, including the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention. Israel, which is assumed to possess nuclear weapons, has signed the Convention but never ratified it. Syria has neither signed nor ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Speaking with reporters, U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said the United States believes no nation in the region, incuding Israel, should possess weapons of mass destruction.

"We have always said that the goal should be that the entire region be free of weapons of mass destruction. Yes, that includes every country in the region," said Mr. Negroponte.

The draft resolution comes at the same time that the United States is accusing Syria of developing its own chemical weapons and harboring terrorists. Syria denies the charges.