Sat, Apr 22, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Jordan slams Syria over arms

WEAPONS The Jordanian government said the cache of arms was smuggled in from a `neighboring Arab nation,' which parliament deputies identified as Syria

AP , AMMAN

Jordanian Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit has told Muslim opposition lawmakers that weapons seized from a Hamas cache in the kingdom were smuggled from Syria, two parliament deputies said on Thursday.

The prime minister's office declined to comment on the matter, but Jordan's official Petra news agency quoted al-Bakhit as telling the lawmakers that the arms were smuggled from "a neighboring Arab country," but did not name Syria.

Petra said al-Bakhit told the lawmakers in the Wednesday meeting that the cache impounded earlier this week "wasn't the first time that Hamas smuggled weapons to Jordan, but there had been several previous attempts that were busted."

According to Azzam Hneidi, a deputy who heads the 17-strong opposition Islamic Action Front bloc in parliament, al-Bakhit did not say how activists from the militant Palestinian group managed to sneak in the weapons and explosives from Syria, where the Hamas political leaders are based.

Hneidi said that al-Bakhit made his comments on Wednesday in a meeting with him and nine other members of the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood Movement.

Tayseer al-Fityani, another deputy representing the Islamic Action Front in parliament, confirmed. He quoted al-Bakhit as saying that "a number of people" linked to Hamas were detained. But he said that the prime minister declined to identify them or say how many they were.

Government officials declined comment, apparently to avoid tensions with Jordan's northern neighbor, which the US accuses of sponsoring terrorism because of its support for anti-Israeli militant Palestinian factions, including Hamas, and the Lebanese Hezbollah group.

The US, which has imposed economic sanctions on Damascus, also accuses Syria of allowing militants to cross into Iraq to fight the US-led multinational force there. Syria has denied the charges.

Amman has accused Syria before of not stopping Islamic militants from smuggling arms to Jordan, a moderate Arab nation with close ties to the US and a peace treaty with Israel, signed in 1994.

Last year, Jordan said an al-Qaeda plot to attack intelligence headquarters in Amman had been hatched in Syria and another neighboring state. Under the plan, members of the group purportedly entered the kingdom from Syria. Damascus denied the accusations.

Earlier this week, Jordan said Hamas activists were threatening the country's national security by smuggling weapons and stashing them in the kingdom. Hamas denied the allegation.

Officials did not say whether arrests had been made, but confirmed that the government called off the visit by Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas member, because of the discovery.

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