Assad: I turned down nukes

Syrian president says he received proposal from purported Pakistani weapons smugglers.

Assad 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Assad 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Syrian President Bashar Assad turned down an offer to buy nuclear missiles from Pakistani weapons smugglers in 2001, he was quoted as saying Wednesday. In an interview with the Austrian newspaper Die Presse, Assad said that the smugglers introduced themselves as envoys of Abdul Qadeer Khan, considered the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program. In 2004, Khan confessed to selling nuclear technology and secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea and has since been under house arrest in Islamabad. Khan was spared a more severe punishment after the Pakistani government prevented US investigators from directly interrogating him. "In 2001, we received a letter from a man introducing himself as Khan. We do not know if the letter was genuine or if it was an Israeli trap," Assad was quoted as saying by the Austrian paper. "Anyhow, we rejected the offer. We are not interested in nuclear weapons or a nuclear facility and I never met Khan." Assad also spoke about the IAF strike on an alleged North Korean nuclear facility in Syria. The Syrian president claimed that the target of the air strike was a "military base under construction." "Since it was a military installation, I cannot go into more details but don't come to the conclusion that it was a nuclear facility," said Assad. Assad went onto say: "We could have responded to the IAF strike by firing a missile but it would have given Israel an excuse to start a war and we did not want that." Regarding the Annapolis conference and the subsequent renewal of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Assad said: "We can't talk about reaching a peace accord by 2008 because the US government will be busy with elections. Annapolis was a one-day event but everything will depend on whether events that follow further the aims of the summit."