DAMASCUS, Jan 3: Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi called on Saturday for "international pressure" on Israel to give up its suspected weapons of mass destruction.

"Effective international pressure should be brought to bear on Israel so that this entity renounces" its weapons of mass destruction (WMD), Kharazi told a press conference after a meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Kharazi, who arrived here on Saturday morning for an unannounced day-long visit, also met his Syrian counterpart, Faruq al-Shara.

Israel has never confirmed or denied that it possesses WMD, but has been considered by the United States to be a nuclear power since 1969.

Experts believe it has at least 200 nuclear warheads.

Israel has long declined to ratify the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty amid fears that Iraq and Iran had programmes to build not only nuclear weapons but also chemical and biological warheads.

Kharazi, whose country last month signed a protocol to the NPT allowing snap inspections of its atomic energy programme, characterized as important a proposal by Syria and Egypt for a WMD-free Middle East.

Turning to Iraq, Kharazi said it was necessary to help the people of that country "take their destiny in hand" and that the US-led coalition "occupation force" should leave the country.

He said his visit to Damascus was in the context of regular consultations on developments in the region, noting that "events in Iraq and in Palestine have a direct impact on the future of the region's countries and peoples".-AFP

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