Middle East

'Iran arms Syria with radar,' US report says

Syrian anti-aircraft gun (file)
Image caption The advanced radar system could boost Syrian defences, officials said

Iran has given Syria an advanced radar system that could threaten Israel's air supremacy in the region, a US newspaper has reported.

The Wall Street Journal said Israel's ability to overfly Syria and hit Iran's nuclear facilities could be hampered.

The system would also boost Syria's defences and could benefit Lebanese militant group Hezbollah if Syria shared information, the report said.

Syria and Iran have denied that the radar transfer took place.

An unnamed Israeli military official has told the Reuters news agency that Syria, Israel's northern neighbour, has received a radar system from Iran, but declined to give further details.

A spokesman for the Syrian Embassy in Washington said the claims were "classic Israeli PR stunts aimed at diverting the world's attention from the atrocities they are committing in Gaza and other occupied territories".

And a spokesman for Iran's mission to the UN dismissed the report as "absolutely not true".

Military alliance

Four unnamed US and Israeli officials told the Wall Street Journal that the radar system had been transferred to Syria in mid-2009.

They said it was part of the growing alliance between Iran, Syria and Hezbollah that aimed to undermine Israel's military dominance in the region.

In April, tensions between the US and Syria worsened after Israeli allegations that Syria had transferred long-range Scud missiles to Hezbollah, the Lebanese guerrilla movement and political party. Syria denies the claims.

Hezbollah fought a 34-day conflict with Israel in 2006 during which more than 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis died.

A year later, Israeli fighter jets bombed a Syrian site that the Israelis said housed a nuclear reactor in the final stages of construction. Syria said it was a defunct military facility.

Tensions in the region are high after Iran vowed to continue its uranium enrichment activities despite a fourth round of sanctions imposed last month by the UN over claims that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons programme.

Under earlier UN sanctions imposed in 2007, Iran is banned from selling or supplying weapons to other countries.

Tehran insists its nuclear programme is for civilian purposes.

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