WASHINGTON, April 22 (UPI) -- The U.S. administration has pressed Syria for months to stop providing ballistic missile technology to Hezbollah, a U.S. State Department official said.
Jeffrey Feltman, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday he called Syria's ambassador in Washington in February to discuss the technology transfer to the group the United States designated a terrorist organization, The Washington Times reported Thursday.
Feltman said he had several meetings with Ambassador Imad Moustapha "because we were so concerned with the information we had that Syria was passing increasingly sophisticated ballistic weapons to Hezbollah."
The State Department Monday condemned "the transfer of any arms, and especially ballistic missile systems such as the Scud, from Syria to Hezbollah," Felton said.
White House officials declined to comment on allegation Israeli President Shimon Peres made last week, accusing Syria of providing Hezbollah with Scud missiles capable of carrying chemical weapons that could reach Jerusalem, the Times said.
"There is serious concern that the Syrians may be considering a transfer but I can't confirm that a transfer has taken place to Lebanon," a U.S. counter-proliferation official said.
Ahmed Salkini, a Syrian Embassy spokesman in Washington, called the reports "a blatant fabrication and disinformation campaign by Israel aimed at raising the level of tension in the region and creating a pretext for possible offensives in our region."
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Wednesday Israel was spreading lies about the missile delivery as a possible prelude to war against Lebanon, Haaretz said. Hariri compared the Scud missile report to claims about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction, which failed to materialize after the U.S. invasion in 2003.