December 23, 2010 08:31
U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks show top Syrian officials suspected Israel carried out the assassination of a top aide to President Bashar al-Assad.
They also show the assassination triggered a rift within Assad's government that may have strengthened hardliners in Damascus.
The accounts come from diplomatic cables from the U.S. embassy in Damascus, and were published Tuesday in Britain's Guardian newspaper.
They focus on the August 2008 killing of Brigadier General Mohammed Suleiman, who advised Assad on arms procurement and strategic weapons.
Syrian officials said little publicly after Suleiman was shot and killed at a Syrian beach resort, but the cables indicate that within the government tempers were flaring.
U.S. diplomats wrote that some security officials openly challenged Assad's indirect peace talks with Israel during a high-level meeting in the days following the assassination.
The U.S. embassy in Damascus speculated in some of the cables that Syria had said little about the killing because officials did not know who was responsible or feared any publicity would reveal "yet another lapse" in the country's security apparatus.
Other U.S. cables also spoke about Suleiman, saying the U.S. had considered hitting him with financial sanctions.
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