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U.S. presses Syria on Hezbollah Scud deal

WASHINGTON, April 20 (UPI) -- Washington summoned a top Syrian diplomat over allegations that the country transferred weapons to Hezbollah.

Officials from the U.S. State Department in a Monday meeting with Zouheir Jabbour, Syria's deputy chief of mission in Washington, condemned "in the strongest terms" potential arming of the Lebanese Islamist group.

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"This was the fourth occasion on which these concerns have been raised to the Syrian Embassy in recent months, intended to further amplify our messages communicated to the Syrian government," Gordon Duguid, a State Department spokesman, said in a statement. "The risk of miscalculation that could result from this type of escalation should make Syria reverse the ill-conceived policy it has pursued."

Israel has accused Syria of secretly arming Hezbollah with long-range Scud missiles, a charge Damascus denies.

Tensions between Syria and Lebanon on one side and Israel on the other have been on the rise since a 2006 war Israeli forces waged against Hezbollah insurgents in Lebanon in 2006.

Hezbollah is part of a unity government that also includes pro-Western Prime Minister Saad Hariri. His father Said was assassinated in 2005 and the Syrian regime was long believed to be behind it.

The government formed last November after months of deadlock following last June's general election.

Yet the country remains deeply divided and the security situation remains fragile.

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