debkafile Exclusive: Assad bids for share in US nuclear amnesty granted Iran. He claims he spurned Pakistani nuclear arms offer in 2001

In an interview with the Austrian daily Die Presseon Dec. 19, the Syrian ruler claimed he turned down a sales pitch from A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani nuclear black marketeer who supplied Iran, Libya and North Korea with nuclear elements and technology. debkafile‘s military and intelligence sources assess this claim as a transparent attempt by Assad to jump aboard the US intelligence estimate clearing Iran of nuclear arms activity from 2003.
This ploy also seeks to nullify the evidence of Syria’s nuclear facilities gathered in the US-sanctioned Israeli raid on Sept. 6. The Syrian president believes his statement on record that he rejected a nuclear arms option as far back as 2001 will erase the pictorial and other evidence published in the world media supporting the description of the Israeli target as a Syrian plutonium plant or some other banned nuclear facility. Israel would thus be shown to be guilty of pointless aggression.
Die Presse quotes Assad as saying: At the beginning of 2001 someone brought us a letter from a certain Khan. We did not know if the letter was genuine or a forgery by Israel to lure us into a trap. In any case, we rejected (the approach). We were not interested in having nuclear weapons or a nuclear reactor. We never met Khan.”
Assad, who was despised at home for failing to retaliate for the Israeli attack, hopes that neither Washington nor Jerusalem will respond to the Die Presse interview. His claim will then stand unchallenged as the last word on the issue, on a par with the NIE report which cleared Iran of pursuing nuclear arms from 2003.
The Syrian ruler is also hinting to Washington, three days before the Lebanese parliament finally gets down to choosing a president, that price for his cooperation in Beirut is a tacit clean bill of health on his nuclear activities. Non-response will do.
US compliance with this implicit deal would also underscore Damascus’ importance as the key to unlocking the Lebanese standoff.

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