USA: US WARNING TO SOUTH AFRICA OVER WEAPONS SALE TO SYRIA

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USA: US WARNING TO SOUTH AFRICA OVER WEAPONS SALE TO SYRIA
English/Nat

The U-S State Department has informed the South African government that a U.S. assistance program could be curtailed if officials there go ahead with a 650-million-dollar weapons-parts sale to Syria.

Spokesman Nicholas Burns said certain forms of U.S. assistance are barred to countries that sell military items to nations listed by the State Department as sponsors of international terrorism.

Syria is one of seven countries on Washington’s list of nations which allegedly sponsor terrorism.

Burns told reporters Monday the United States is “deeply concerned” about South Africa’s reported intention to sell tank firing-control systems to Syria.

SOUNDBITE: (English)
“The United States is aware of the reports that South Africa is considering selling various weapons systems to Syria. We are deeply concerned about these reports. it would be extremely serious if these sales actually occurred. The United States hopes that the South African government will not consummate arms sales to a country that supports Terrorism.
SUPER CAPTION: Nicholas Burns, State Dept. Spokesman.

The proposed sale was tentatively approved by the South African Cabinet in December.

A final decision will be made this month, according to a spokesman for Deputy South African President Thabo Mbeki.

SOUNDBITE: (English)
“We have a variety of reports available to us, and as I said, we are trying, on a first order of business, to ascertain the plans of the South African government. If in fact the sales go through – then that would be a very serious matter indeed, and we then have to reflect upon the association of any acts and the relevance to our laws – and I think you know the consequences of that, which are quite severe. South Africa is one of our largest aid recipients. Since I don’t know what the outlines of any potential sale, or actual sale, could be, I think I want to say that I can’t anticipate what the effects would be, but in principle, any country that does sell military arms to a state sponsor of terrorism does expose itself to United States law.”
SUPER CAPTION: Nicholas Burns, State Dept. Spokesman.

An Israeli newspaper reported Monday that the deal may include cooperation on spy satellites and nuclear research.

The Yediot Ahronot report said South Africa’s production of the tank firing-control systems is based on Israeli know-how it acquired through years of cooperation with Israel.

The United States has complained for years about the alleged Syrian practice of providing a haven for terrorist groups in Syria and in Syrian-controlled areas of Lebanon.

Because of the international stature of South African President Nelson Mandela, the United States has up to now been willing to overlook the close ties he maintains with nations at odds with the United States, including Libya and Cuba.

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