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December 29, 2002

Iraq transfers long-range rockets to Syrian border

TEL AVIV — Iraq has transferred several shipments of long-range rockets to the Syrian border over the past month.

Israeli intelligence sources said the rockets are intended for Hizbullah in Lebanon as part of preparations for a massive strike against Israel.

The sources said the regime of President Saddam Hussein relayed rockets with a range of 150 kilometers to Syria, which controls the flow of weapons to the Iranian-backed Hizbullah.

The rockets, the production of which are not banned by the United Nations, represents the longest-range weapons meant for Hizbullah, Middle East Newsline reported. Until now, Iran and Syria have transferred to Hizbullah rockets with a range of between 70 and 100 kilometers.

The sources said Iraq has been holding contacts with Hizbullah in an effort to persuade the Lebanese-based organization to launch a massive attack on the eve of any U.S.-led war against Baghdad. They said Hizbullah has refrained from any commitments.

The Iraqi rockets were sent to the Syrian border over the last month, the sources said. They said they did not know whether the rockets have been received and absorbed by Hizbullah or kept by Iranian or Syrian officials responsible for the organization.

The Israeli Haaretz daily reported that Syria has been helping Iraq in trying to find weapons to defend against any U.S.-led attack. The newspaper said Damascus has imported a range of weapons components and attempted to find medium-range Scud missiles for the Saddam regime.