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A Syrian state-run newspaper on Wednesday rejected claims made by UN and US officials that arms were being smuggled into Lebanon from Syria, and suggested that ulterior motives lay behind the complaints.
"Why are they telling these new lies at this specific time?" the official Tishrin newspaper said in an editorial, reacting to comments made Monday by Terje Roed-Larsen, the top U.N. envoy for Syria-Lebanon issues, and John Bolton, the US ambassador to the UN
The editorial proposed several possible reasons for the allegations, including that they aimed to prevent Syria from playing a role in resolving crises in the Middle East.
Tishrin asked, "is it because the international community and superpowers such as Russia and some European countries are now talking about the importance of Syria's role in a peace process?"
Roed-Larsen said Monday that representatives of the Lebanese government had "stated publicly and also in conversations with us that there has been arms coming across the border into Lebanon."
He said, however, that the UN could not confirm the Lebanese government reports because UN troops have not been asked by the Lebanese army to monitor the border with Syria.
Bolton stressed that Syria is required to respect the UN arms embargo authorized by the Security Council resolution that ended the 34-day Israeli-Hezbollah conflict in August.
The Tishrin editorial also proposed that the arms smuggling allegations were an attempt to undermine attempts by pro-Syrian Lebanese factions to bring together rival political groups for talks next week on forming a national unity government in Lebanon.
Another possibility it suggested was that they were an attempt to deflect the public's attention from US problems in Iraq and Afghanistan ahead of legislative elections next week in the United States.
"The Bush Administration ... wants to hide the truth with lies and to change the path of history. It is today confirming that it is the foremost enemy of Syria and of Arabs..." Tishrin said.