DAMASCUS, Oct 13: The Syrian foreign ministry demanded on Sunday that US ambassador Theodore Kattouf explain his country’s expression of concern about Syria’s nuclear programme, a ministry statement said.

“A formal complaint was presented to him over what is being circulated by State Department spokesmen on Syrian-Russian cooperation in the field of nuclear research,” the statement said.

It was referring to remarks by US Undersecretary of State John Bolton last week to a Senate committee. Bolton said: “We remain very concerned that the nuclear and missile programmes of Iran and others, including Syria, continue to receive the benefits of Russian technology and expertise.”

Washington brands both Syria and Iran as state sponsors of “terrorism”.

State Department officials said last week they had no immediate explanation for Bolton’s expression of concern about the Syrian programme.

They referred inquiries to a CIA report which says the Syrian nuclear programme is for research and civilian purposes, notes Syria has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and is under comprehensive safeguards through the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“The (foreign) ministry requested a formal explanation at a time when the United States knows this,” the Syrian statement said.

“It expressed its strong distaste for cooperation between the United States and Israel in various arms fields, and for US silence on the Israeli nuclear programme.”

Syria’s relations with Washington have been strained during the US “war on terrorism”, which Washington says also targets the Lebanese Hizbollah guerrillas and radical Palestinian groups that Damascus backs.

Bolton, who is in charge of arms control and international security at the State Department, is a hawk suspicious of multilateral arms control agreements.

He caused a stir earlier this year by saying that Cuba has a programme to develop biological weapons. Many analysts said there was no credible evidence for the allegation.—Reuters

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