Syria denies it threatened to attack Spanish peacekeepers

Spanish daily El Mundo reported Syrian native Monzer al-Kassar's extradition would pose risk and danger for the troops based in Lebanon.

spanish peacekeepers (photo credit: AP [file])
spanish peacekeepers
(photo credit: AP [file])
Syria denied reports Tuesday that its security agents have threatened Spanish peacekeepers in southern Lebanon in a bid to block the extradition of a suspected arms dealer to the United States. The Spanish daily El Mundo, citing a local police report, warned Monday that Syrian native Monzer al-Kassar's extradition would pose a risk and a danger for Spanish troops based in Lebanon. Al-Kassar who had been living in Marbella for the last two decades, has been detained by Spanish authorities and is wanted in Washington on suspicion of arranging international arms deals. In October he appealed, claiming the charges were of dubious legality, and the United States had racist and political motives in pursuing him, but on Dec. 13, Spain's National Court rejected approved his extradition. A Syrian Foreign Ministry official said in a statement that the Syrian embassy in Madrid denied the report of threats against peacekeepers, stressing that "Syrian-Spanish advanced relations have overcome these fabricated reports." "These fabricated reports aim at harming Syria," the statement added. El Mundo cited a memo allegedly sent by Maj. Gen. Assef Shawkat, President Bashar Assad's brother-in-law and head of Syrian military intelligence, to the head of Spain's National Intelligence Center Alberto Saiz. According to El Mundo, the memo says: "If you think we are going to ignore the insult which North American informers, paid delinquents, have committed against our brother ... (al-Kassar) then you really don't know us." The Syrian statement said that "Syria denies reports about (the existence) of such a memo or any communications between Syrian and Spanish intelligence services on this subject." Around 1,100 Spanish soldiers serve in the UN Interim Force in Lebanon installed after the summer 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. Six Spanish soldiers were killed in June when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. Relations between Syria and Spain have been warm and Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos is the only Western official who still visits Syria after US and European officials stopped coming following the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Anti-Syrian Lebanese politicians have blamed Syria for the killing. Syria has denied involvement.